Sunday, August 14, 2016
MIFF Session #16: THE UNKOWN GIRL
Racked with guilt, Jenny takes a still from the video and begins her own investigation. The victim carried no identification. Beginning with those closest to home she passes the image around but no one can identify the girl. Going wider, she establishes that the victim had been a sex worker and had just come from a client before her death. This takes her into some very dodgy territory, both police and local thugs warn her off the trail. But she's too haunted and can't stop.
Adele Haenel plays against her delicate youth with a hard seriousness. She lets us know the struggle that Jenny has been through just to get to this lower link on the medical food chain. When she is threatened with physical violence her surprise at her vulnerability feels genuine. And as her driving guilt over the death morphs into more of her sense of responsibility we understand the strength she is gaining from it. Gravity ensues.
The Dardennes have been my go to struggle-core team for a few years now (I was very late to them but now think they just have no competition). They've taken the grey-day look of social realism and found riches within it so that their visual style is both signature and unobstrusive. Their observation of the delicate balance of life at the bottom is always compelling because it's always driven by performance performance performance. That's what takes these unsmiling tales of life from grim-oop-north grinds into essential dramatic cinema. That's what we have here.