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Review: 'Lorna's Silence'

Docu-style film about an immigrant's struggle dips into the murky world of moral compromise.

Arta Dobroshi as Lorna in 'Lorna's Silence.'

Christine Plenus/Sony Pictures Classics

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Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, the Belgian brother act behind "Lorna's Silence," are film festival darlings. Two of the writing-directing team's previous films, "Rosetta" and "The Child," won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, and their movies are generally received on the cineaste circuit with hushed awe.

I've never been altogether enamored of their work, partly because their celebrated, so-called naturalistic style is as mannered as any other expressive style. Why is it the height of realism for a filmmaker to scurry around after a character while holding a hand-held camera? Get real.

But I am being deliberately provocative here. I do admire in the Dardennes's movies the deft ways in which "realism" is worked into allegory. In their own free-form way the Dardennes are just as formalized and devotional as the late, great Robert Bresson, whose movies (such as "Diary of a Country Priest" and "Pickpocket") were often about spiritual redemption and were rigorous to the point of asceticism. The Dardennes usually start out with material that, in heavier hands, would play out as melodrama. "The Son" is about a father who sells his newborn son on the black market and then tries to get him back. "Lorna's Silence" is about a woman who falls in love (sort of) with the man she is, in effect, meant to murder.

Lorna (played by Kosovo-born Arta Dobroshi in her first major screen role) is an Albanian immigrant living in Li├Ęge, Belgium, a grayed-out, hoodlum-infested enclave of working class and underclass. She toils in a dry cleaner's and dreams of opening a diner with her itinerant boyfriend Sokol (Alban Ukaj).


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