Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

In the style of French post-new wave realism, Belgian brothers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne tell a depressing story, sans frills. A candy bar might have been nice, but that would be cheating. Truth cinema, as exemplified by the Dogme movement in Denmark, hand holds its camera and stays close to the source of pain.

Rosetta (Emilie Dequenne) is a disturbed teenager, living with her alcoholic mother in a caravan park. All she wants is to be normal, have a steady job and money of her own. Instead, she keeps getting sacked, which makes her so upset she wants to trash the place, or hit someone.

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Her mother provides sex for services with the manager of the site and hardly communicates with her daughter, who prefers to tend fish traps in the river. Rosetta's social skills fall short of human relationships. She is aggressive, isolated, emotionally cauterised. Also, she suffers from crippling stomach pains.

She makes friends with Riquet (Fabrizio Rongione), who tends a waffle stall. Making friends means not fighting, not kissing, not running away. Riquet likes Rosetta and wants to help her. She wants his job. She is like a fox, never properly tamed, and yet not as cunning as a fox.

The film is unrelenting in its honesty. The only compromise to artifice concerns a gas bottle in the final scene, which provides an ironic ending. In every other respect, the audience is not allowed the comfort of hope. Even beauty is discouraged as a false concept.

Dequenne won Best Actress award at Cannes last year - Rosetta won the Palme D'Or - in her first film role. It is a powerful performance, without, in any way, soliciting sympathy. She has to concentrate on being unactressy, natural and sexually switched off, with a camera stuffed in her face. She doesn't flinch. Neither does she smile.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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An isolated teen hunts for a job... and friendship.
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Nicholas Dawson ****1/2

Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

Writer: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

Starring: Emilie Dequenne, Fabrizio Rongione, Anne Yernaux, Olivier Gourmet

Year: 1999

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Belgium


EIFF 1999

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