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Film / The Unknown Girl

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The Unknown Girl (French: La Fille inconnue) is a 2016 Belgian drama film directed by The Dardennes.

Jenny Davin is a young physician. One night, someone rings at the door of her office one hour after the end of the consultations. Julien, a trainee, insists on opening the door, but Jenny refuses to do it. The next day, the police informs her that the girl who rings her door was found dead not far from her office. So far, the identity of the girl is unknown. Now, Jenny feels guilty and she would like to discover the identity of the victim.

The Unknown Girl provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Julien was a battered child.
  • Accidental Murder: According to Bryan's father, he did not mean to kill the unknown girl. She fell on a concrete block when she was trying to escape from him.
  • Alcoholic Parent: Bryan's mother is alcoholic and this is why she consults Jenny.
  • All Men Are Perverts: Most male characters are perverts. Bryan and his friend spy on a prostitute giving oral sex to an old man. A Dirty Old Man needs the services of prostitutes. His son helps him to find them. Bryan's father immediately starts chasing a prostitute when he sees her, he asks her for sex and molests her. There is also a pimp who cheats on his girlfriend with a prostitute who works for him.
  • Amateur Sleuth: Jenny Davin is a physician, but she decides to discover the identity of an unknown girl who died moments after ringing at her door.
  • Bungled Suicide: Bryan's father tries to hang himself in the toilets, but the water pipe breaks up.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The video surveillance system of Jenny's office is briefly seen in the beginning, when Jenny opens the door for a patient. Later, it becomes important because the police uses it to get images of the unknown girl just before her death.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • At first, Bryan's father seems to be a secondary character who appears in the story only because his son saw the unknown girl. In the end, he confesses that he is the one responsible for the death of the unknown girl.
    • The black guy and his friend in the cybercafe seem to be some random guys who are there by chance. Later, they attack Jenny, which means they are somehow involved in the case. Finally, it is revealed that the black guy was the pimp of the unknown girl.
    • The girl in the cybercafe. In the end, she is revealed to be the unknown girl's sister.
  • Determinator: Jenny is determined to discover the unknown girl's identity. She does not stop even when two thugs attack her.
  • Dirty Old Man: Monsieur Lambert, an old man who lives in a nursing home, pays prostitutes to give him oral sex.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: The unknown girl was a prostitute.
  • Due to the Dead: The unknown girl is buried anonymously. Jenny pays for a proper grave and she investigates to discover her name to write it on the grave.
  • Linked List Clue Methodology: Bryan tells Jenny that he saw the unknown girl in a campervan. Jenny finds the owner of the campervan, then his father, who tells her that the girl came from a cybercafe. In the cybercafe, Jenny meets the unknown girl's pimp and sister. The latter will in turn reveal the girl's true identity.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: One of Jenny's patients is a teenage boy who has cancer (he has no hair).
  • My Greatest Failure: Jenny feels guilty for not opening her door for the unknown girl, which resulted in her death.
  • Not So Different Remaerk: When Bryan's father confesses that he is responsible for the unknown girl's death, he says that he cannot stop thinking of her. Jenny replies that she feels the same.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: The plot is triggered by the death of the unknown girl and the fact that Jenny feels guilty about it.
  • Posthumous Character: The unknown girl dies very early in the film, but Jenny's quest to discover her identity is the main subject of the film.
  • Secondary Character Title: The unknown girl is a Posthumous Character. The protagonist is Jenny.
  • Sibling Triangle: The pimp was in a relationship with the unknown girl's sister, but he was attracted to the unknown girl. Therefore, her sister was jealous.
  • Tantrum Throwing: A patient throws Jenny's stethoscope around because he is angry that she refuses to make a fake medical certificate.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Jenny is an ambitious young physician. She criticizes Julien, her trainee, because he gives way to his feelings in front of the patients. She is also hired for a very lucrative position. When she realizes that her behaviour caused the death the unknown girl, she gives the lucrative position up and she decides to work in a poor district. She tries to convince Julien to keep on his training. She also tries to discover the identity of the unknown girl. Downplayed, because Jenny's initial jerkassery is mild.
  • White Man's Burden: Jenny, a white physician, wants to give a black prostitute a proper grave. She also wants to discover her identity to pay homage to her. She also thinks of her family: she assumes that they are worried because they do not know what happened to her. So she wants to help an unfortunate black person, even if it is post-mortem.

Alternative Title(s): La Fille Inconnue