The Unknown Girl

The Unknown Girl

Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Running Time: 106 minutes


This film had its final screening at The Nightlight on October 19, 2017.

The Dardennes brothers' latest tale from the grim streets of the industrial suburb of Liège in Belgium is another quietly powerful masterpiece; it’s perhaps their best film since The Child.

A young African woman with no ID, has been found dead on the bank of the river nearby. Adèle Haenel as a doctor turns detective. The Unknown Girl fuses elements from social realist cinema, morality play and a whodunit murder mystery. The result is a wholly gripping narrative told with understated eloquence.

The Dardennes brothers are minimalists using naturalistic lighting and no score - the only soundtrack is industrial noises or the swish of heavy traffic on the ring road outside the surgery. Philosophical questions about our responsibility towards others, particularly those living in poverty, run through the film and are left open-ended. The social realism will be familiar to Dardennes’ fans, but the addition of the detective element brings a new narrative energy to their work. The Unknown Girl confronts moral dilemmas worthy of Hitchcock, in particular difficult questions around the code of doctor-patient confidentiality. There’s a rare excursion to the countryside for a re-encounter with Julien, but otherwise this is a relentless and impressive slice of urban noir.

~~ Saskia Baron, theartdesk.com

Presented in original French language with English subtitles.