Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (Belgium, 1954) debuted with
Je Pense a Vous
La Promesse/ The Promise (1996) is a
coming of age drama in which a teenager slowly emancipates from the
cynical amorality of his father and becomes a moral person.
A teenager, Igor, works at a car-repair shop. He steals the wallet of an old lady while he's fixing her car.
His father comes to pick him up and drives him to a place inn the outskirts of town where a number of people who have slept illegaly in cars. They load them in the van and drive them to a stinking building.
father's construction company.
The workers are from various countries, illegal immigrants.
Igor's father confiscates their passport and charges them rent.
Igor helps him collect the money.
The workers are hired to fix the run-down building that Roger owns.
One of the illegals, Hamidou, an African, has paid Roger to bring his wife Assita and their little son to him.
Igor spies from a keyhole the attractive black woman.
Igor's father Roger is told that the mayor is under pressure to arrest illegal immigrants and Roger promises to deliver four.
Igor is charged with convincing four of their illegal tenants to pay for
a trip to the USA. It's a set up and the police arrest them.
Igor meets two friends with whom he has been building a go-kart.
The following morning he shows up late for work at the mechanic shop
and gets fired.
Igor runs home to alert the workers that labor inspectors are on their way.
The workers flee and hide, but Hamidou falls from a scaffolding. Igor would
like to rush him to the hospital but Roger instead frantically covers up the
accident, buries the body (who may still be alive), and lies to Assita.
Before dying Hamidou asked Igor to take care of his wife and baby,
and Igor promised.
Work resumes around the building. Igor helps Assita, who still doesn't know
the truth. Some men come looking for Hamidou because he owes them money
lost at gambling.
Assita begings to think that Hamidou disappeared because of his gambling debts.
Igor bribes Roger's trusted assistant Nabil to secretly give money to Assita,
enough to pay Hamidou's gambling debts. Nabil does it but then tells Roger,
who becomes furious at Igor and beats him savagely.
Roger saves Assita from Nabil when he tries to rape her and then tries to convince her to fly back to Africa, but she refuses. We then see that it was a ploy:
Roger had ordered Nabil to stage the assault hoping it would encorage Assita
One day Assita examines
a chicken's entrail and tells Igor that Hamidou is nearby.
Just then she receives a telegram by Hamidou asking her to meet him in Germany.
Roger offers to drive her. Igor figures out that it's another trap and
that Roger wants to sell her as a prostitute. So he kidnaps her. She pulls out
a knife and forces him to stop. He then tells her that Roger faked the telegram.
She demands to go to the police where she files a report of missing person.
Igor leaves her alone for a few minutes and she is attacked by two racists
who pee on her child and ride their motorcycles on her belongings.
Igor takes her to a shack that belongs to Roger.
Igor tries to convince her to leave the country but she insists that Hamidou
is nearby. Igor still doesn't tell her the truth, that Hamidou is dead.
That night Assita, a superstitious woman, goes crazy: her child has a disease and she believes Igor gave him the disease. She refuses Igor's help and desperately tries to flag down a car to go to the hospital, but nobody stops.
She now suspects that Hamidou is dead and Igor lies to her that he's not.
He takes her to the hospital and he pays the bill.
The following morning a kind nurse, Rosalie, also of African origin, takes her
to an African shaman/seer who, while Igor is watching, divines that the child's fever is
caused by an ancestor who demands justice and that Hamidou is still alive.
But the seer advises Assita to nonetheless leave the country since she has a brother in Italy.
Igor sells a ring to pay for Assita's journey and Rosalie hands her a valid id.
Finally Roger finds them and get into a fight with Igor.
Igor knocks him out and chains him.
Igor is determined to tell Assita the truth.
On the way to the station he confesses to her how Hamidou died.
She doesn't say a word and they walk towards the train.
Rosetta (1999) is the terrifying portrait of a woman who is turned into
a selfish monster by her poverty. She is cruel and feels no compassion for
others, not even the ones who are kind to her. She
dreams not of becoming rich but just of living a normal life.
A girl is fired from a job because the company needs to downside and she's
the only one on a temporary contract that can be easily fired. She gets
furious because she has worked hard and done nothing wrong. They have to resort
to force to kick her out.
She crosses a dangerous highway and enters a wood, where she hides her good
shoes and wears boots to walk in the muddy forest along a lake.
Rosetta lives in a trailer of a caravan park with her mother. Her mother is
a recovering alcoholic. Rosetta gets mad when see finds traces of beer.
She can guess that a man came with beer to have sex with her mother.
Rosetta cannot buy food but fishes illegally in the lake with worms found in
the mud and a broken bottle.
Rosetta, who is in pain during her menstruation time, wanders around looking for a job. The kid who works at a waffle stand, Riquet, follows her to the
caravan park. She initially rejects him violently. He has to physically pin her
to the ground in order to tell her the news: the boss just fired a worker and
there is an opening for her. She immediately takes the job, passing in front
of the woman who has been fired, a woman who missed work because her baby
was sick. Rosetta shows no compassion for the woman.
Her daily routine always includes changing shoes in the woods. Back home,
she finds her mom performing oral sex to the landlord, presumably in
exchange for alcohol. Rosetta pays rent with her first salary. Rosetta
has decided to send her mother to a rehabilitation clinic, but her mother
escapes. Rosetta chases her. Her mother throws her in the lake, and Rosetta
almost drowns in the quicksands.
Now that she doesn't have to take care of her mother, Rosetta visits Riquet,
who behaves like a real friend. She sleeps at her place and smiles thinking
that she finally has a normal life: a job, a friend...
But she gets fired again, and again it's unfair because she's a good worker.
She walks to the woods and changes her boots again to walk to her trailer,
where she is now alone. Riquet comes to visit her while she is fishing
illegally. Scared that it could be the landlord, she loses the trap for
fishing in the water. Riquet immediately tries to recover it but gets
stuck in the quicksands. Rosetta hesitates a lot before helping him:
if he dies, there would be a job opening for her. However, in the morning
he is still generous and friendly to her. But she knows that he is cheating
the owner of the business and she betrays him to get him fired. She is
physically standing next to the boss when he fires him, eager to take
his place. Now she has her job but she has to run away from Riquet who
stalks her riding around her in a motorcycle. She shows no remorse for having
betrayed her only friend, the man who tried to help her.
Back home she finds her mom lying unconscious outside the trailer.
She calls her boss to tell him that she quits. Then she turns the gas on
as if to commit suicide but the gas runs out. She walks to the landlord to
buy another canister of gas.
Riquet shows up when she is dragging the heavy canister back home.
He rides around her without speaking to make her feel ashamed.
Eventually, Rosetta breaks down and finally starts crying.
He hugs her.
Le Fils/ The Son (2002)
L'Enfant/ The Child (2005)
Le Silence de Lorna/ Lorna's Silence (2008)
The Kid (2011)
Deux Jours Une Nuit/ Two Days One Night (2015) is a touching melodrama.
Sandra receives a phone call from her friend Juliette and is devastated by the news.
Her husband Manu and her friend Juliette convince her to talk to the company's owner,
Dumont, amount her job. Apparently the company decided to lay her off.
Dumont accepts to hold another vote but we learn that 14 out of 16 coworkers
voted for Sandra to be laid off and to receive a bonus: the company can't
afford to pay the bonus and also Sandra's salary.
Manu and Sandra have two children. If she loses her job, they won't be able
to pay mortgage and will have to move to public housing.
At home Sandra cries and feels humiliated that nobody except Juliette cares for her. Manu suggests that she takes advantage of the weekend and talks in person to each of the 14 coworkers. They may change their mind and vote for her.
One says yes on the phone, so now Sandra knows that she has three votes.
They dig up all the addresses and she begins her bus odyssey around town.
The first one is in financial trouble and his wife, who just lost her job, strongly opposes renouncing the bonus.
The second one is a girl who bluntly tells her the same: she can't afford to lose the bonus.
The third one pretends she's not home but Sandra hears her talking to her child.
She has lunch with the children at the restaurant where Manu serves as a waiter.
The fourth one, Timur, is a young immigrant who starts crying when he sees her:
he's ashamed that he voted against her because she had helped him when he had just started working.
He volunteers to call one of the others.
She fails on the phone with another immigrant, Hicham, who needs the bonus.
She finds him accidentally working a second job in a shop.
Hicham reveals that their boss Jean-Marc called him (and probably everybody
else) and argued that Sandra won't ever be able to be a good worker after her illness. This is another blow to her morale.
Now Manu drives her around on her odyssey.
She tells Manu that she can feel that he will leave her: she thinks that he pities her, not love her.
The next encounter turns even violent. She confronts a middle-aged worker and
her young son, also a worker. The older man is moved by her story but the son
starts yelling at her. He almost attacks her and, trying to stop him, his father is hurt and falls to the floor unconscious. The son leaves him there. When the old man revives, he says he'll vote for her.
Timur convinces another one: now there are six on her side.
However, Sandra is beginning to feel ashamed: the angry young man made her realize that she is begging these people to give up their bonus for her. If she's
ever taken back to work, she won't be able to look at them
knowing they lost her bonus because of her.
Next she visits Anne, who sympathyzes but has to convince her husband: they too need the money.
While she waits for the woman's answer, she talks to another coworker, a young man with a wife and child to support, who coldly reminds her that the 16 of them
were able to do her job when she was sick.
Manu drives Sandra back to Anne who still hasn't phoned her decision.
She witnesses an argumet between the two: the husband rudely insults Sandra.
Sandra is discouraged. She tells Manu she wants to go home.
She secretly buys a lot of pills, hides in the bathroom and overdoses to kill herself.
She calmly prepares to die when Anne walks in and announces that she'll vote for her despite her husband.
Manu is delighted, but Sandra confesses that she just swallowed a bottle of pills. She is rushed to the hospital. Not only she recovers right away but she also regains the energy to see the last three despite the fact that it is already
Anne has decided to leave her husband and Sandra asks her to stay with them for the night.
The next one tells Anne that he hopes she wins but he can't vote for her because he needs the money.
Alphonse, a newly hired African immigrant, is not even entitled to the full bonus. His conscience tells him to vote for her but he has been threatened by the boss Jean-Marc and is afraid of losing his part-time job if Jean-Marc finds out that he voted for her. He hesitates.
The last one doesn't open the door, so it is unknown how he will vote.
Sandra may just have the majority on her side.
Monday comes and the workers meet in a room to cast their secret vote.
Eight vote for her, eight against: she's one vote short.
Alphonse did vote for her. Sandra hugs the eight and prepares the leave with
her belongings when owner Dumont in person calls her to his office.
He is impressed by her fight and, to calm the staff which is bitterly divided,
offers to re-hire her when the contract of the newly hired Alphonse expires in
a few weeks.
Sandra refuses and walks away smiling.
L'Enfant/ The Unknown Girl (2016)
Le Jeune Ahmeddi/ The Young Ahmed (2019)