In one of their best films, the Dardenne brothers bring forth a powerful, social-realistic cry for humanity and humanism. In Belgium today, a young boy and an adolescent girl who have travelled alone from Africa pit their invincible friendship against the difficult conditions of their exile.
Lokita is trying to satisfy the authorities that yes, she tracked down her eight-year-old younger brother Tori in a West African orphanage and recognized him—despite not having seen him since he was a baby—and her anxiety is palpable. She’s not a convincing witness. And indeed, Tori is not a blood relation; the pair met up on their grueling odyssey across Europe. But their bond runs deeper than mere opportunism. In a hostile and dangerous environment, they offer one another unstinting love and support. Billeted temporarily in a state-run centre, they work nights side-by-side in an Italian restaurant, and then run “errands” (drugs) for the chef. The Dardenne brothers work with such consistency at the highest level (Two Days, One Night; The Unknown Girl), there is a temptation to take their films for granted. That would be a mistake. When so much of cinema is dominated by escapist fantasies of power and strength, the Dardennes have grounded their stories in social realism and empathy for the vulnerable and the weak. Their latest ratchets up the tension and pummels the heart.