Lenfant
I still think it would look cooler if I were holding a cigarette instead of this stroller.

Theatrical Release Date: 10/19/2005 (France), 03/24/2006 (USA)
Directors: Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne
Cast: Jérémie Renier, Déborah François

Wandering around the art house circuit lately has been the 2005 Palme d’Or winner from the Cannes film festival, “L’Enfant”. (For those of you like me who took Spanish in High School, the English translation is “The Child”.)

Written and Directed by the brothers Dardenne (Jean-Pierre and Luc), “L’Enfant” is the story of Bruno and Sonia. Bruno is the rebel without a cause type who refuses to take a job and instead ekes out an existence for himself and Sonia by stealing and panhandling. Sonia is the sweet nectar that balances out his harsher side and they act like 14 year-olds who are too much in love to see where their lives are probably headed.

Still, they are a young couple madly in love and as the film begins, Sonia has just given birth to their son, Jimmy.

If you saw the trailer, you know the major plot point. And as such, I’m not ruining things by saying that the crucial event in the film is that Bruno sells their child to get money.

Pretty harsh for a new dad but fairly in character with Bruno to that point of the film.

Obviously, I’m not going to spell out the entire story but you might be better off getting a plot synopsis from me than seeing this film.

I know all the indie theater crowd is googly-eyed about this film … and why not, it’s French! (Scratch here to smell sarcasm). However, the plain fact is that the film doesn’t live up to its own hype.

In typical Dardenne style, the film is shot using primarily handheld camera work and there is no score or music to really speak of. This gives the film an almost home movie feel which works very well.

And up to and just after Bruno sells his son, I was hooked. I was fully involved and found myself justifiably angry with Bruno (yes, I know he’s not real) because I can’t fathom the type of person who could sell their child to strangers.

Now before anyone gets high and mighty, I’m all for adoption. If you can’t raise your child, give it to someone who can. But that’s not what Bruno was doing; he was just looking to score some cash.

So before I figuratively bitch slap the people who tout this film as a great piece of cinema, let me give due credit to the two lead actors, Jérémie Renier and Déborah François.

François especially was impressive and it was almost like watching Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant”, where relative unknown and new actors are able to convey a real person on-screen, not just a character in a movie.

And on a humorous note, in checking out the credits as they rolled on-screen, I counted 21 different babies playing the role of Jimmy. Either everyone on the crew got their kid/nephew/niece into the film or France has really, really weird child labor laws.

Back to the film as a whole, the overwhelming emotion I felt was disappointment. The build up is great but the payoff is disproportionately weak. It was almost as if the Dardennes came up with this really great idea and only realized halfway through filming that they should come up with the after effects.

Unless you are a full-on French cinema fanatic, you don’t need to figure out which art house you can find this film in. I was expecting a powerful and moving story and got a mediocre film with a few powerful moments. La grande surprise, je donne “L’Enfant” un 3 de 5.

If you come across it on cable, feel free to check it out. Otherwise, save that cash for as much “Snakes on a Plane” merchandise as you can get your hands on come this August. That’s a much better investment.