Outside the Coens brothers, cinema’s most cherished filmmaking brahs are a brace of Belgians who’ve never made a blockbuster and rarely step past their backyard.
Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne are the kings of Cannes: they always leave the festival with a prize and have a Palme d’Or each. Unlike Ethan and Joel, Luc and JP aren’t movie-referencing geeks, but their eagerly anticipated new moral fable does start with a sly nod to L’Argent maestro Robert Bresson, as a grubby clutch of Euros swaps hands.
Albanian twentysomething Lorna (Arta Dobroshi) is mock-married to smack addict Claudy (Dardenne regular Jérémie Renier) to gain Belgian citizenship. She’s also working with the local Mob to hitch with a shady Russian. If all goes to plan, he’ll get a green card and she’ll get enough cash to start a new life.
Shock: all doesn’t go to plan. Claudy desperately begs for help to get clean. The Mobster decides to kill him off with an overdose. Lorna’s feelings shift unexpectedly.
And the Dardennes delicately construct a suspenseful, absorbing social-realist drama of redemption – one that makes a springboard ascent towards something spiritual, touching and very human.
Yet for some critics, The Silence Of Lorna is a disappointment. Unfolding in the nowhere-town of Liege, the tricksy narrative revelations are more coolly calculated and predictable than the brothers’ previous heartbreaking masterworks Rosetta, The Son and The Child.
And despite Dobroshi’s enigmatic, affecting performance, Lorna’s awakening doesn’t quite come off with the same shuddering emotional impact that fans expect.
We’ll come clean: this is the Dardennes’ most conventional movie yet – which counts as blazing praise to their towering standards. When the Wachowskis disappoint, we get Speed Racer. When the Coens disappoint, we get The Ladykillers.
When the Dardennes doit... well, you see the star rating.
By Jonathan Crocker
in short Another immensely subtle, skilful emotional drama from the Belgian masters. Perhaps not up with their spellbinding best – but if only everything at the movies was this disappointing.