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Friday, August 2, 2013


Courtesy of Distrib Films
2013, 106 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Joachim Lafosse's Our Children is painful to watch, yet is a captivating family drama with three powerful performances.  The film follows Mounir (Tahar Rahim of A Prophet) and Murielle (Émilie Dequenne who won the Best Actress Award in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2012 Cannes Film Festival), a young couple who live with Mounir's adoptive father, Andrés (Niels Arestrup), a loving yet controlling man.  As life becomes more and more chaotic, Murielle begins to mentally deteriorate.

Lafosse gives us an uncompromising vision in this film.  This movie, as we find out from the very beginning, is not going to end well.  How depressingly this film ends needs to be seen to be believed.  The ending of the film (NO SPOILERS AHEAD) could have been executed melodramatically in the hands of a lesser director, but Lafosse knows what to show and what not to show.  What is horrifically implied is far more disturbing than what is actually shown.  The camera is placed just outside of doorways and never in character's faces to make us feel as if we are looking in on the action.  Being detached from the action gives us a feeling of helplessness.  If Lafosse had immersed us in the drama, it might not have been as horrifying.  Detachment makes it feel like there is a glass between us and the film, giving the feeling that what happens onscreen cannot be reversed no matter what happens.

The lead three performances are incredibly realistic and make this movie hard to watch due to their authenticity.  Arestrup is a phenomenal actor.  He and Rahim have strong dramatic chemistry both in Our Children and A Prophet.  Dequenne is the one who stands out above the rest, though.  She doesn't do much to distinguish herself at the beginning, but as Murielle's mental state deteriorates, Dequenne's performance becomes stronger and more disturbing. The way she portrays Murielle's deterioration is subtle.  It isn't showy and in-your-face, and this makes her performance unnerving.

Overall, Our Children is a devastating experience.  It is painful, raw, and smartly directed.  If you're looking for entertainment this weekend, this is not the movie to see.  However, if you want a well-made, compelling piece of drama, this is the movie for you.

Our Children opens this weekend at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.


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