"For the past decade, the Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have been building one of the most passionately engaged bodies of work in contemporary cinema. Characterized by an insistently moving camera, their films move fast even when the brothers do not. . . restlessly beautiful images. . . what matters isn't only actions and events but their emotional, spiritual and psychological costs. . . what interests the Dardennes - what invests their work with such terrific urgency - is not only how Bruno became the kind of man who would sell a child as casually as a slab of beef, but also whether a man like this, having committed such a repellent offense, can find redemption. . . Few other questions - how we live and whether our lives have meaning - are as important, which is why it's unsettling that few filmmakers bother to raise them. . . Working with the cinematographer Alain Marcoen, who shot all four of their last features, the brothers have developed an instantly identifiable naturalism, unsparing in its attention to detail. Their camera maintains an intimate, at times uncomfortably claustrophobic proximity to the characters, an approach that feels attentive rather than instrusive."
Manohla Dargis, NEW YORK TIMES
"Grace to the finish: Dardennes brothers' triumphant tale of crime and punishment. . . Twice garlanded by the Cannes Film Festival, the Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have a style and set of interests that are as instantly recognizable as those of any filmmakers in the world. Cine Dardenne is characterized by its hectic, rough-and-ready camerawork, impeccable performances, a concern with the urban dispossessed (specifically those living in the small industrial city of Seraing), and an unlikely affinity for Robert Bresson; the mode might be described as spiritually infused social realism. . . their second Palme d'Or triumph. . . The remarkable thing about the Dardennes-who made documentaries for two decades, years before going fictional-is their visceral single-mindedness. Each of their movies is an odyssey (toward grace?) through a world that could hardly seem more drably material. . . L'Enfant is Bruno's journey, structured as a series of tasks, culminating in a chase that, both metaphoric and intensely physical, is also an agonizing descent into the depths. . . JP and L Dardenne's latest triumph of spirituality infused social realism, last year's Cannes laureate, is a saga of crime, punishment, and redemption. Culminating with a chase that - both metaphoric and visceral - is also a descent into the depth, THE CHILD is an action film in which every act is shown to have a consequence."
J. Hoberman, VILLAGE VOICE
"****(Highest Rating) . . The Dardenne style is so innate and effortless as to suggest these projects materialize out of thin air, and the brothers dare us to find a single false note in their startling simulations of real life. . . Besides the Dardennes, are there any directors alive whose films express a humanism that, while so devastatingly heartbreaking, remains so completely unforced, exciting, and unsentimental in its execution? L'Enfant's swirling sense of moral chaos, sustained horror, and courage has not been seen since The Son. . . every remarkable composition and movement in L'Enfant bleeds compassion and remorse, evoking a profound sense of transcendental, existential, spiritual, or emotional unease (take your pick, or take them all, because the brothers' vision is nothing if not complete), and its incredible, gut-punching finale-which follows what may be the most exciting and revelatory chase sequence the movies have ever seen-can be looked at as a male pieta or, more simply (but just as powerfully), an eruptive demonstration of a child finally becoming an adult. Either way, the film is nothing short of a miracle."
Ed Gonzalez, SLANT MAGAZINE
"stark, fascinating Bruno. . . Jérémie Renier, with dirty, tousled blond hair and slightly horsey features that appear a tad too big for his face, is all sullen instinct and appetite. He's a remarkable camera subject, and he plays Bruno with a dead look in the eye that says, What's in it for me?"
Owen Glieberman, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
"How comforting it has been through the last ten years to remember that they are working, that two film-makers of our time have such gifts of spiritual scope and unembarrassed compassion and have the art to present their insights simply, almost humbly. . . The brothers have given us another treasure. Once again they have made a drama of redemption; and once again they convince us that it is possible. . . They see the world as it is but more so. They see what we may sense is there but don't always perceive. For their perceptions, their persistence, their very modesty, we can be grateful."
Stanley Kauffmann, THE NEW REPUBLIC
"The Dardennes still find pockets of beauty in their brokedown hometown of Seraing, Belgium, the industrial city where all of their movies take place, and they continue to focus on society's so-called bottom dwellers. But couched within the deceptively spare story of a reluctant family man is a drama whose purity has an unparalleled power to devastate. Even those familiar with the filmmakers' work may be surprised by the overwhelming emotional flood tide this Palme d'Or winner unleashes. . . thanks to Renier's incredible performance, the audience gains compassion for this pathetic paterfamilias as the lost boy starts to grow up. . . Watching Renier play someone with no inkling of cause and effect (What did I do?) is his reaction to Sonia's disbelieving stare) who slowly takes the reins of responsibility is so subtly naturalistic that you forget you're watching someone pretending. He's called on to be the heart, the arteries and the blood of the film, and he delivers organically on every level. Deadbeat dads have never seemed so delicately constructed. . .The power the filmmakers bring to that final scene, in which the characters' simmering emotional pots finally boil over, comes as close to hard-earned spiritual bliss as anything their idol has done. Their other fictional films have borrowed the veteran's pared-down style, but this story of a lowlife who finally finds a sense of something beyond himself is the one that truly replicates the agony and ecstasy of the master's work as well. Bresson should be smiling down on the Dardennes like the proudest of pops."
David Fear, TIME OUT NEW YORK
"The old-fashioned baby carriage that figures in the central sequences of L'Enfant (The Child), the new movie by Belgium's Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, is the most tension-weighted pram since Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 Battleship Potemkin. . . L'Enfant's simple, personal story dramatizes the decline in social behavior that has occurred in the new global economy. . . the Dardennes have followed their 2004 masterpiece The Son with their most Dickensian story of brutal youth. L'Enfant has sharp, realistic detail (Bruno wastes money buying Sonia a black leather jacket to match his own, a poignant item of materialist romance), plus expressive, resonant imagery (Bruno's vivid green T-shirt symbolizes greed, Sonia's vibrant red sweater, heart). . . The Dardennes' storytelling is so highly conceptualized that their brilliant, politically conscious ideas don't need show-off technique. . . Through plain, atmospheric camera work and Bruno and Sonia's innocence, the Dardennes' fully demonstrate that our morality (which is our politics) originates in how we value the life of others. . . See L'Enfant for its purity; appreciate its bracing sense of the actuality of the West's everyday petty theft, cruelty and stupidity."
Armond White, NEW YORK PRESS
"This poignant French-language drama, which deservedly won the Golden Palm award at last year's Cannes Film Festival."
Leah Rozen, PEOPLE MAGAZINE
"****(Highest Rating) far more clever than the average slice-of-life servers. . the Dardennes, like the neorealists, keep their eyes and ears on the here-and-now even as they move their characters to a conditional redemption. For all its seeming simplicity, this is an emotionally and intellectually complex film that holds the viewer in a grip as tight as any classic thriller you can name."
Glenn Kenny, PREMIERE MAGAZINEv
"François and Renier's searing performances magnificently magnified by the brothers' verité-like style to create a kind of perfect emotional storm guaranteed to leave audiences talking long after they've left the theater."
Wade Major, LA CITY BEAT
"**** (Highest Rating) Belgium's gritty little "L'Enfant" is powerfully uplifting precisely because it's so horrifying. . . Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, the acclaimed filmmaking brothers who wrote, directed and produced "l'Enfant," won the top prize at Cannes last year. They use a realistic, slow-simmering style to depict Bruno's rocky, seemingly impossible climb to redemption. . . The suspense is a killer, the wordless payoff grand. This is a movie about the kind of everyday miracle we all need to believe can happen - how the tiniest glimmer of human connection can lead the most miserable specimen out of darkness."
Jami Bernard, NY DAILY NEWS
"L'Enfant" won the top prize at Cannes 2005, and it's easy to see why. It's expertly directed in a low-key, naturalistic way that brings to mind French auteur Robert Bresson. It's also emotionally forceful and contains heartbreaking performances by Jeremie Renier as Bruno and Déborah François as Sonia."
V.A. Musetto, NEW YORK POST
"****(Highest Rating). This deserving Cannes festival prize-winner is as scruffy and unpredictable as its wayward central character. . . The Dardennes pulsating drama is off and running, tailing its reckless antihero on a breathless path of moral awakening that leaves the audience stunned and panting by the final frame. . . The intimacy the directors achieve with their actors is nothing short of uncanny: Renier and François go about their business with such naturalness and determination, you forget there are performances going on. "L'Enfant" merely observes, refusing to judge its wily antihero or pander to our need to like him. At some point, we begin to care for the creep so deeply, we feel guilty of aiding and abetting."
Jan Stuart, NEWSDAY
"Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's quietly devastating film. . . "L'Enfant" was last year's winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes; another Dardennes effort, "Rosetta," won the award in 1999. In these and the still earlier "La Promesse," the Belgian directing brothers deal with themes they have made their own: the difficulty of being moral in an amoral world and the grinding, unforgiving nature of reality for those forced by poverty to live on the margins of society. These are not easy films to experience, but they are uncompromising and unforgettable. . . The intensity and intimacy of cinematographer Alain Marcoen's style follows the film's characters as closely as a second skin. We are so deeply into the dailiness of their lives we never even have a sense of eavesdropping: We are simply there. . . Newcomer Déborah François is exceptional as 18-year-old new mother Sonia, but the focus is more on Jérémie Renier, who effortlessly carries the movie as Bruno. . . the Dardennes are determined to demonstrate how little room to maneuver there is for individuals marginalized by implacable social forces, how difficult it can be to have ordinary feelings while living in painfully impoverished circumstances. . . The exceptional thing about "L'Enfant" is how intensely dramatic the film makes the consequences of Bruno's choice. Trapped by character and circumstance."
Kenneth Turan, LOS ANGELES TIMES
The brothers have always been able to lay their characters' souls bare, and with Renier, first seen nearly a decade ago in The Promise,' they have an actor more than capable of conveying the cracks forming in Bruno's stony facade. . . L'Enfant' focuses on the here and now, the possibility that all human beings have within them compassion, remorse and the capability to sacrifice their own interests for another. . . However you want to look at it, L'Enfant' is a blessed experience."
Glenn Whipp, LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS
"Astonishingly vivid. The illusion of reality is so nearly complete in this magnificent French-language film by the Belgian filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne that the screen becomes a perfectly transparent window on lives hanging in the balance. . . The Dardennes brothers make films of enormous power. . . Deborah Francois and Jeremie Renier give brilliant performances. . . L'Enfant compels us to care."
Joe Morgenstern, WALL STREET JOURNAL
"Thumbs Up. . .A great film. . . very intense and concentrated and tragic."
Roger Ebert, EBERT & ROEPER