REVIEW: Lorna’s Silence

10 08 2015

Lorna's SilenceFor fans of the Dardennes (a group that probably exists only at the very fringes of cinephile circles), “Lorna’s Silence” functions as an interesting bridge between two stages of the brothers’ career.  Their first few movies, which include two Palme D’Or winners in “Rosetta” and “L’Enfant,” feature hardscrabble protagonists forced to learn tough lessons in an uncaring society.  Their latest two films, “The Kid with a Bike” and “Two Days, One Night,” allow some pyrrhic victories for characters willing to fight tooth and nail for them.

“Lorna’s Silence” falls somewhere in between these dueling worldviews, both evincing the past and presaging the future.  Perhaps it feels somewhat wishy-washy as a result, but Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne never hit a false note in their grim portrayal of what happens to Lorna, a fundamentally good-natured woman, when she makes her own life harder by having compassion.

In order to gain Belgian citizenship so she can start a business with her boyfriend, the Albanian emigre Lorna allows herself to become a pawn in a mafia game.  She endures a sham marriage to a junkie to avoid the messiness of divorce proceedings; local boss Fabio (Fabrize Rongione) thinks Lorna can kill off her husband Claudy (Jérémie Renier) by staging an overdose.  Lorna, however, finds herself torn between her personal desires to realize her dreams and the desire to help someone clearly struggling.  The push and pull, as well as how she attempts to create some kind of balance between the two opposing forces, proves brutally compelling to watch unfold.

The film may come across as slight in comparison to the brothers’ other work, but the impact of “Lorna’s Silence” is still hard to shrug off.  If this is the toll of trying to remain upright in a world that rewards self-service, then why would anyone ever want to do the charitable thing?  The Dardennes confront some of the tough dilemmas that face the working-class, daring us to feel the pain with their beleaguered, woebegone protagonists.  B+ / 3stars