The Dardenne brothers expand their range a little bit with Lorna’s Silence by taking a more hands-off approach and allowing the action to progress in a more traditional style. The film, unfortunately, isn’t any better for it. Their usual style of staying close to the action, forcing the viewers to confront the emotional grindstone, is abandoned in favour of a a more detached style that leads to a less emotional resolution in what is probably their weakest film thus far.
Lorna (Arta Dobroshi) is an Albanian immigrant involved in a sham marriage to Claudy (Jérémie Renier), a drug addict. Fabio, the agent of this arrangement, wants the marriage done with to get Lorna married off to his next client, a rich Russian businessman. Meanwhile Lorna and her shifty boyfriend Sokol are trying to get enough money together to buy and run their own snack bar, a dream that gets further and further from reality as the film progresses.
The “silence” referred to in the title could relate to any number of things – the silence that Lorna is supposed to maintain about her pregnancy, the silence she keeps about her feelings towards her boyfriend Sokol, her silence about Fabio’s plans for Claudy; she’s a woman of many secrets, the majority of them other people’s.
The film’s progression is confused, and a pivotal moment is inexplicably left out completely, in the clumsiest way possible. The Dardenne brothers themselves call it an “ellipsis”, but it’s executed so poorly that it adds nothing but confusion to the viewing experience.
While the performances are as strong as ever, the unrealistic situations and unbelievable character progression that Lorna takes lends the film an air of fiction and mechanism that is usually absent from the brothers’ work. Jérémie Renier’s performance as Claudy the drug addict is typically fantastic; he’s so pathetic but hopeful about the money he thinks he’ll receive in his divorce from Lorna but he is a small highlight in what is ultimately a middling movie from the usually brilliant Dardenne brothers.
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