With a title like yours and a story so seemingly straightforward, it is easy for one to get the idea that they have you all figured out. It is this kind of subtle misdirection and slow revelation that really makes a film special. It is that fullness of vision, that wholeness of purpose and understanding of theme and meaning that distinguishes happy accidents from well-crafted pieces of art.
Sonia (the beautiful Déborah François) has just had a baby by her low-level thief of a boyfriend, Bruno (played with sneaky charm and power by Jérémie Renier). They are young, they are in love, and they are completely unprepared for the actuality of raising a child. Yet they live for a time in the blissful illusion of being a happy family. They take a road trip, buy matching outfits, and talk about how much Jimmy, their son, looks like them.
But they are not adults, and when real life – specifically money – interjects into their fantasy, Bruno’s true nature comes out, and the insidious meaning behind your title really comes to the fore. Bruno’s rash decision regarding the fate of his family sets him on a path of self realization. In a way, the story is as old as time itself – the creation of a family makes a boy grow into a man. But the journey Bruno must take, the way by which he winds his way toward maturity, is novel and real.
The gulf between the shores of common humanity and civility and the moral turpitude Bruno is more accustomed with is unfathomably broad. He begins by working a small team of children as his personal gang, enticing them to help him steal and fence the loot from their minor heists. His lack of concern for people’s property is only matched by his complete lack of interest in the safety or future of the children under his command. Likewise, he leaves very little evidence to suggest he cares at all about Sonia beyond the childlike joy she inspires in him.
Then Bruno makes a rash mistake regarding what he believes to be a simple decision, and suddenly all of his safety nets are gone. The world, once a simple equation based on money needed and money had, becomes much more complicated. All that which came to him so easy is suddenly easily lost, and he has to find it in him to gather it all back to himself. But even if he gets the money back, will that bring back everything else he lost? Will he be as able to live without the intangibles as he thought?
As I said, the basics of your story are simple, it is the emotional core and truth that comes from your performers that really delivers the power that must have garnered you all of your various accolades. As Sonia, Déborah François somehow manages to make her character both innocent, young, and yet imbued with a kind of maturity and gravity that must be the natural, instinctual offshoot of motherhood. Her fear and uncertainty regarding her sudden situational shift is palpable, as is the conflict inside her as she must choose between the man she loves and the safety and future of her child.
Bruno, meanwhile, is a trickier beast. His character is one of deep, yet completely un-maliciousness corruption. He doesn’t have a moral compass, and therefore is never aware that he has wronged anyone. He has no ill-will toward anyone, only the personal, selfish drive for his own well being. Even Sonia only factors into his plan so much as she is something that makes him happy. Watching his journey, as he slowly finds and accepts and hopefully acts upon his new-found moral compass, is a rare and human treasure.
I appreciate that kind of humanity in a film. A movie that allows for the power of human experience to move viewers based on empathy alone is a rare, courageous experience.
Brian J. Roan