Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne avert their messy social realism to a degree with a low-key whodunit that has a transformative quality to it.
The Unknown Girl (in French with English subtitles) has another professional actress at its center (Adele Haenel) as in their absorbingly poignant Two Days One Night who comes across as boastfully dispassionate, at least in the early portion.
Haenel's Dr. Jenny Davin becomes obsessed and morally inclined after the nature of the death of a titular attacked African-American who tried to buzz into to her medical practice which she plans to leave to a more prosperous one but was denied after business hours.
Some may not buy into the situations the steely physician interestingly etched by Haenel gets into as an atonement to learn the identity in order to provide a proper burial. Jenny pushes the Hippocratic Oath as she turns into a gumshoe and gives inspectors a headache when not much turns up on the evidence front. It includes contact that she persuades into admission, not to mention dealing with a man whose father in a nursing facility both of whom apparently had interacted with the deceased.
Propelled like a deceptive potboiler, the makers of The Son and Lorna's Silence aren't as persuasive in their often subtly, informative naturalism (though capitalizing a bit on the refugee crisis) as scribes. Yet, the characters still resonate despite a stretching schematic notably with Haenel who really hones the doctor with a kind of piquant perceptiveness which puts her in an ironic predicament from relocating her practice.
Also, the conversations and interaction between Jenny and intern Julien (a dutiful, yet upfront Olivier Bonnaud) helps set the dilemma in motion and even put things in perspective for a crisis of conscience. Jeremie Renier and Olivier Gourmet (regulars of the sibling auteurs) also appear with the latter in a tetchy, fearsome turn as a trailer home proprietor.
The Dardennes get to work close to home in the Seraing and Liege locales of Belgium and offer a fine sense of place for the kind of grim squalor on view. Especially enhanced by crisp hand-held lensing by Alain Marcoen and the skillful editing of long-time collaborator Marie-Helene Dozo.
|The Unknown Girl||B-||B-|