To call The Son a masterpiece would be to insult its modesty. Like the homely, useful boxes Olivier teaches his prodigals to build, it is sturdy, durable and, in its downcast, unobtrusive way, miraculous.
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It combines a fresh and exciting style with stunning performances and that rarity in current film, a deeply humanistic story.
Makes no attempt to entertain us. Much of this extraordinarily tactful movie, like "Rosetta," is shot in close-up, focusing on the back of Olivier's neck, as if inviting us to see the world as he does.
Sitting through the film is punishing work. The jittery closeups create a response that is more physical (I'm thinking nausea) than emotional, and there are no respites.
To my knowledge there's no one anywhere making films with such a sharp sense of contemporary working-class life -- but for the Dardennes it's only the starting point of a spiritual and profoundly ethical odyssey.
It's a movie imbued with a fierce intimacy -- a tone and style similar to cinema verite documentary -- but it's not a banal realism, even if the characters and settings in contemporary working-class Liege initially seem mundane.
Shrewd, highly controlled little film from Belgium that builds to an unexpected emotional climax.
It is as assured and flawless a telling of sadness and joy as I have ever seen.
The ability to conceive a compact drama on this huge subject and to embody it as perfectly as they have done, added to what they have already accomplished, puts Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne among the premier film artists of our time.
The real star of The Son isn't lead actor Olivier Gourmet. It's the back of his neck, which the camera obsessively focuses on throughout this difficult but rewarding Belgian drama.