Young Ahmed

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Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

Young Ahmed
"Their provision of few motivational details makes for an unsatisfactory narrative." | Photo: © Christine Plenus

The spare rigour of the Belgian Dardennes Brothers finds eloquent expression in this latest foray in to social realism, making them kindred spirits with Ken Loach among others.

Here they deal with a teenage Arab boy who becomes radicalised by the local Iman (Othmane Moumen) and sets himself the task of “punishing” his “infidel” maths teacher.

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The troubled youngster (played with a dogged determination by Idir Ben Addi) has a Belgian mother but his father mysteriously does not figure anywhere in his life.

Although the mother is not a practising Muslim she does not deny Ahmed access to this culture. He becomes a fervent disciple of the scriptures, decrying his sister as a “slut” for wearing revealing clothes and becoming enraged by his mother’s occasional alcoholic drink.

The Dardennes do not reveal exactly why Ahmed, who used to spend his time on Play Station, suddenly has turns to such extremes as praying five times a day and refusing to greet any female teacher by a handshake.

He decides that his maths teacher, who in the past had helped with dyslexia, has to be punished partly in retribution for the fact she is now dating a Jew. The Dardennes take a leap to a detention centre where Ahmed finds himself up against an array of social workers, psychologists and judges trying to find the best way forward for their charge, even leaning towards the erroneous view that he may be contrite. This is quite the reverse of the boy’s intentions.

The Dardennes, however, don’t really appear to take a point of view and their provision of few motivational details makes for an unsatisfactory narrative. Addi is not the most charismatic of performers, possibly under deliberate instruction, which again makes it difficult to hook our complete engagement.

There is no denying the power of the Dardennes’ story-telling techniques but Young Ahmed is not in the same class as [film id11365]The Child[/film] or Rosetta for which previously the brothers had won Cannes Film Festival top honours.

Reviewed on: 21 May 2019
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Young Ahmed packshot
A teenager becomes radicalised.

Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

Writer: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

Starring: Idir Ben Addi, Olivier Bonnaud, Myriem Akheddiou, Victoria Bluck, Claire Bodson, Othmane Moumen

Year: 2019

Runtime: 84 minutes

Country: Belgium


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