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Film / L'Enfant

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L'Enfant (The Child) is a 2005 film from Belgium, in French, directed by the brothers Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne.

The protagonist is Bruno, a pimply-faced and very dumb young man who lives on the fringes of society, scraping by via panhandling and petty theft. Sometimes he's so down and out that he lives under a bridge. As the film starts his girlfriend Sonia comes home from the hospital, where she has just delivered their baby son, Jimmy. She can't get into her cramped apartment because, in her absence, Bruno has sublet it for a few days, but after she finds him she forgives him.

Bruno ekes out a precarious existence by pawning/fencing stolen goods. A fence who knows about Jimmy makes a helpful suggestion: sell the baby! So, while he has little Jimmy with him, and without telling Sonia, Bruno sells him to some gangsters who do black market adoptions. When he returns to Sonia he tells her that he sold the baby, shows her the fat wad of euros that he got, and suggests that they can always have another.

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Sonia takes this about as well as one might expect: she faints. In fact, she has an attack that requires hospitalization. Bruno, who finally twigs to the idea that selling his infant son was not a good idea, asks for his baby back from the gangsters. Surprisingly, they do in fact return Jimmy—but there's a catch. The gangsters were expecting to profit €5000, and since they didn't get the money from the baby, they want it from Bruno. In the meantime, an enraged Sonia has reported Bruno to the police.


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Tropes:

  • Easily Forgiven: Sonia is surprisingly chill about Bruno subletting her apartment without asking, and she doesn't mind that Bruno wasn't there for the baby's birth. Soon they're laughing and having fun as always. But when he sells the baby, this trope no longer applies.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Before we even see Bruno we learn about what a dirtbag he is, when Sonia comes home from the hospital to find someone else in her apartment, which Bruno sublet. Then when she finally tracks down Bruno, we find out that he didn't even bother to come to the hospital.
  • The Fagin: Bruno's petty theft operation involves some schoolboys who look to be in their early teens. They steal things and bring them to Bruno to fence, and sometimes Bruno will work together with one of the boys to steal purses, with Bruno driving the getaway scooter.
  • Fainting: Sonia keels over when she finally understands that Bruno did sell their baby. It's pretty serious, as she has to be hospitalized.
  • Headbutt of Love: In the last scene Bruno gets a visitor in jail—Sonia. She buys him a coffee from the vending machine. Bruno then breaks down in tears, sobbing uncontrollably. Sonia starts to cry too, and they do the Headbutt of Love. Then the movie ends.
  • Heel Realization: Bruno seems to realize this around the time that he and Steve hide in the river to avoid the cops, and Steve nearly drowns, and Steve is then arrested. As Steve shivers in the police station, Bruno walks in, returns the money they stole from the lady's purse, and takes the blame for everything.
  • Human Traffickers: Black market baby-smuggling. The gangsters who engage in it are far more serious and dangerous criminals than the hapless Bruno.
  • Institutional Apparel: Bruno is dressed in the standard drab prison outfit when he meets Sonia in jail at the end.
  • Kitchen Sink Drama: A tale of a petty criminal on the edge of homelessness who makes a spectacularly bad decision.
  • The Oner: The scene where Bruno delivers the baby runs four minutes without a cut. He enters an abandoned apartment building, lays the baby on his jacket in an empty room, then goes to the next room. After a brief wait he goes back into the first room and finds a wad of cash on his jacket. The camera stays on him from when he enters with Jimmy until when he leaves.
  • Reality Has No Soundtrack: There is no soundtrack for the entire movie. The only music heard in the film is the "Blue Danube" waltz, played briefly over a car stereo.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Bruno's suggestion to Sonia is that selling their baby is just good business sense and they can always have another. Sonia does not agree.
  • Toilet Humor: As Bruno and his teenaged purse snatcher Steve lie in wait, Bruno says, "Did you fart?" Steve blames it on the school cabbage.

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