2008 // Belgium // Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne // September 9, 2009 // Theatrical Print
B- - There's something inexplicably chilly in the Dardenne brothers' most recent film, the urgently observed and somewhat confounding Lorna's Silence. At the center of its narrative is a complex and thoroughly indecent proposal. Albanian drycleaner Lorna (Arta Dobroshi) has married Belgian junkie Claudy (Jérémie Renier, compelling even as a derelict) at the behest of gangsters in order to obtain citizenship. Their plan is to kill Claudy with a fake overdose and for Lorna to marry a Russian heavy, in a kind of murderous immigration two-step. Naturally, the enterprise comes apart, partly due to Claudy's shaky resolve to clean up and partly due to Lorna's flickering conscience. The brothers shoot with their customary vérité ruthlessness, leavening the gravity with sparing mirth and bringing tragedy down abruptly like a hammer. However, the film fails to develop much psychological detail within the confines of its style, dampening the potential drama. Doboroshi's performance is engaging, but perhaps too inscrutable, and the film never achieves the emotional depths necessary to move it much beyond thriller tensions or crude sympathy for its heroine. Still, the conclusion veers into intriguingly unexpected territory, posing stinging doubts about the absence of human connection in an increasingly mercenary world.