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La Promesse

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Belgium, France, Luxembourg · 1996
1h 34m
Director Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Starring Jérémie Renier, Olivier Gourmet, Assita Ouedraogo, Florian Delain
Genre Drama

Igor, aged 15, and his father Roger run a gang of illicit laborers on the outskirts of Liege, Belgium. When one of his father’s illegal workers gets injured on the job and asks Igor to take care of his wife and baby, Igor find himself caught between his intense feelings of guilt and his loyalty to his prejudiced father.

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What are critics saying?


Baltimore Sun by

La Promesse...presents an unflinching view of the victimization of vulnerable people, but the center of the film is not the immigrant experience. It is the portrayal of a father-son relationship and that turning point where a child must choose between a loved parent and his own sense of morality.


Newsweek by David Ansen

Urgently, without sentimentality, "La Promesse" shows us the birth of a conscience, and its cost. This fleet, powerful movie may prove to be a classic. [30 June 1997, p.79]


ReelViews by James Berardinelli

Despite being a low-key production, La Promesse speaks volumes about how we treat other human beings and what it means to truly grow up.


Boston Globe by Jay Carr

Hurtling from the screen with a vigor and importance that are all but absent from contemporary film, it's a deeply moving social drama, raw and gritty in style, shining with moral purpose as it delivers a scathing take-it-into-the-streets critique of feral capitalism and racism. [18 July 1997, p.D1]


Chicago Tribune by Michael Wilmington

Both sides of the story -- the larger context and the intense and intimate drama -- are painted with an absolutely unswerving sense of truth. And, as we watch this movie, full of violence, injustice and compassion, there is barely a moment that seems calculated or contrived.


San Francisco Chronicle by Mick LaSalle

The world of this film is like nothing most Americans have seen. But we know what it's about. It's about greed and guilt and how inconvenient it can be to have a soul.


Miami Herald by Rene Rodriguez

La Promesse (The Promise) makes filmmaking look easy. The movie is deceptively simple, a tight little drama about guilt and conscience in which the creators' strings are completely invisible. It's fine storytelling in its purest form. [31 Jan. 1997, p.27G]


The New York Times by Stephen Holden

The integrity of the film, whose directorial team has collaborated on numerous Belgian documentaries, extends to its sad final moments, in which nothing is left neat and tidy.


Washington Post by Stephen Hunter

Bleak and post-industrial, this is no easy film to watch. It hasn't a conventional image of beauty anywhere within its grim 93 minutes, being shot in harsh natural light that somehow plays up the grime and chill of back-alley life. But by the end, it's suffused with something utterly rare: moral beauty. [27 June 1997, p.D6]

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