Speaking Fluently

Heading Downhill: Jeromie Renier in La Promesse

Everything that happens in this movie, and in particular what Igor does in his own confused way, is pretty much a surprise. As in a documentary, things happen without much foreshadowing--characters don't speak of plot deadlines or spout catchy dialogue. The handheld work, always a reliable route to edginess, supports the tone. And this canny way of revealing a subject, of discovering (instead of proclaiming) a theme, pays off in a fairly long section where nothing particularly violent or dangerous happens but a solid cloud of dread still prevails. Not knowing what could happen, seeing just how cold and pathetically manipulative Roger is, it's possible to imagine any of several possible fates for poor Igor.

And when one finally does reveal itself, it's in keeping with his character's buildup but it's also presented simply. He will grow into himself, but also stumble some more. Like any serious case study, Igor's situation and his struggles remain an ongoing saga. And like any truly wise movie, La Promesse leaves something worth thinking about, and even worrying about, at the end. Its "social problem" comes off the shelf from an obvious category, but its telling is one of a kind.

Ma vie en rose (My Life in Pink) starts Friday at the Uptown Theatre; La Promesse starts Friday at U Film Society as part of "French Watch," its French-language film series running throughout February.

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