A pair of children from West Africa look at each other’s back while they are trying to sail in the Belgian immigration system and a criminal world in the last world of the winners of Palme d’Or.
Tori and Lokita are perhaps the saddest editor-director-producer Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne that I still did-and it is really something given that we are talking about the manufacturers of the promise, the son, the silence de Lorna, two days, one night and of course, the winners of Palme d’Or Rosetta and the child. But where so many of their films in the past have concluded with at least a small ribbon of comfort, hope or grace piercing social-realistic gloom, the pre-eminent cinema brothers of Belgium have none of these Joyful stuffed animals this time.
Located once again in a podunk district near Liège and Condroz, history revolves around two minor immigrants (played by non -professional Pablo Schils and Joly Mbundu) who pretend to be brothers and sisters to guarantee the ‘Lokita authorization older to stay as a refugee. But the children were reluctantly attracted to the criminal world to pay debts and desperately send money at home. The most optimistic thing you could say about the film is that the tragedy it evolves towards tirelessly – practically audible in the background as a gear train – does not kill all the characters that we have learned to love end.
And yet, it is perhaps the most emotionally engaging film of Dardennes in a certain time – a tragedy told with total clarity, centered on protagonists deserving our sympathy, our empathy, all the “legs you have. There is no tincture of guilt or a touch of moral ambiguity here, as there were with the central characters of the unknown girl or the young Ahmed. You would think that it could make it a more commercial vehicle for distributors, but alas the lack of artists of names and the reluctance of the public to adopt stories on immigrants from non -European territories could make a more difficult sale, no more Easy to distributors. It’s a completely different type of tragedy.
Economic as always, the Dardennes launch the story almost in the media res, with a lot of drama already done, sprinkled and absorbed in the background of the characters. The first long shot, composing the entire first scene, observes Lokita (Mbundu), a young woman who may be 15 or 16 years old at most, in close-up. The authorities make her grill on the details of the way she would have found her brother Tori (Schils) in a West African orphanage at the age of 8, despite not having seen him since he was baby. Her face trembles with anxiety, presage the panic attacks that she frequently has throughout the film.
She cannot answer because it is indeed a lie. We finally learn that the two, biologically independent and in fact from two different countries (Cameroon and Benin), met while traveling to Europe together, have become firm friends, and that Lokita may have saved the life of Tori at one point along the way. Tori seems to have already obtained his license to stay or expect to do it soon, perhaps because he has a few years less than Lokita or because his story of having been abandoned as a baby suspected of being a Verified witch.
Lokita pretends to be her sister likely because it gives her a better chance of staying with him; Otherwise, she will be expelled at home to be simply an economic migrant and not a refugee. For the moment, they are allowed to stay in a state center for migrant children, slightly supervised by social workers.
The film does not really enter into the details of how they have arrived and whether they deserve to stay or not, although it is quite clear that the filmmakers are on the side of the children. All we really need to know is that they are essentially good children, honest and faithful to their words for each other, if not for the authorities, and deeply determined to look for each other with ferocity , some brothers and sisters of blood could correspond. This means that they work together at night in a neighboring Italian restaurant, encouraging guests to use the karaoke machine by singing. The highest point of their set is a duo with a haunting song in Italian that they learned when taken care of in Italy. (The sweet, melancholy and lullaby melody denies brutal words on gradually larger animals by eating smaller ones, making it a synecdoche appropriate for the film itself.)
After the song, they have nocturnal towers to do, offering drugs throughout the city for the chef below, an Albanian criminal suzerain named Betim (Alban Ukaj) which prepares the small packets of powder and grams of cannabis for children In Courier when he is not to compensate for the spaghetti carbonara orders. Sometimes he gives children a hot Focaccia of the oven to eat after one of their work quarters. He also exploits Lokita sexually, giving her an additional 50 euros if she makes oral sex on him.
It is not only the European predators that children should monitor. Two Africans, a man and a woman, track Lokita in town, asking why she had not been to the church recently to see them and make the reimbursements she owes them for her and Tori through the Mediterranean. And her mother at home often calls guilt to send him more money via a wire service to pay his five brothers and sisters.
In desperation, Lokita agrees to do work like a “gardener” in a cannabis factory that Betim has who operates in an industrial site outside the city. It is literally locked up inside for a three -month imprisonment sentence in a more humid environment, and warned that it should call a nearby contact in the event of a fire. But the worst of the situation is that it cannot have a phone to speak to Tori, so they cannot check the safety of the other.
In addition to the songs that children sing, there is, as is often the case in a Dardennes film, no musical partition to subcontract the action or define the atmosphere so that we know what happens. This makes shocks all the more sudden and disturbing, and usually simply increase tension. In a first scene, Tori loops on the other side of the road to follow Lokita, and some cops shoot him for Jaywalking, making both particularly nervous because they have drugs in their backpacks. In addition to illustrating how cool the heads of these children are because they treat with the cops as if there was nothing wrong, it makes us subtly worried about the road safety of Tori: later, when he Bombarding in town at a rumor bike, viewers feel a constant low level of constant level fear that he will not put himself in an accident which will prevent him from seeing Lokita again.
Tension never really lets go and takes place especially in a scene where Tori ingeniously tries to know where Betim keeps Lokita – a kind of macgyver style burglary scene to break or better call Saul but without vintage needle fall back into the background .
So small touches of adventure may also be supposed to be souled in a film that is otherwise, let’s not forget, indescribably heartbreaking. But it works beautifully because, like an intelligent mouse in its own way, every detail, the performance and the good of the know-how are performed with unfair perfection. This applies as much for the design of production by Igor Gabriel, regular of Dardennes, by rehabilitating the work of Fluid Camera of DP Benoit Dervaux, the impeccable performance of Schils and Mbundu – towers which are discreet but also emotionally as the needles of Saying compasse of the real north.