Globalization seems to be a preoccupation with European filmmakers these days, and after Olivier Assayas' quietly meditative Summer Hours and Fatih Akin's profoundly moving The Edge of Heaven comes Belgian auteurs Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's ethical thriller Lorna's Silence.
The Dardennes, masters of neorealism and film-fest faves for their gritty minimalism, rigorously craft a tale grounded in the social and moral realities of petty criminals and the immigrant underclass. Economic exploitation is the name of the game, as Albanian Lorna (Arta Dobroshi) desperately struggles to divorce the Belgian junkie (Jeremie Renier) she married for citizenship before ruthless mobsters kill him off. You see, she's part of a green card scam and scheduled to marry and secure citizenship for a wealthy Russian client. At first aloof and self-interested, Lorna unexpectedly develops feelings for her faux-husband as he struggles to get clean. Needless to say, this complicates everyone's plans and the plot thickens — but not in ways you'd expect.
The Dardennes once again employ their relentlessly detached style, never allowing sentiment to overturn the carefully calibrated applecart. At times, the story drags, but between the intimacy of their handheld camerawork and Lorna's ever-mounting dilemmas, the movie generates real world suspense. In addition, Lorna's emerging humanity provides a psychologically rich and emotionally haunting experience that sticks with you days after watching the film. Credit that to Dobroshi, who is mesmerizing in her guarded stillness. She paints a raw and affecting portrait of a lost soul moving toward both salvation and madness.
It is only in the film's unusual last act that things begin to unravel. Though thematically in line with their earlier work, the Dardennes trade dramatic urgency for intellectual appreciation. This will, undoubtedly placate the critics who worry that the brothers have begun to compromise their art-house sensibilities. But to most audiences, Lorna's Silence will seem disappointingly incomplete, snatching away her voice just when we needed to hear it most.
Showing at the Detroit Film Theatre (inside the DIA, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-3237), at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 18-19, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 20. It also shows at 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 25-29, and at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 27.
Jeff Meyers writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].