L’Enfant won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, but it’s going on our worst-of-year list. The set up is interesting enough: a homeless teenager leaves the hospital with a newborn, and her small-time crook boyfriend decides that it would be a good idea to sell the baby for a handful of cash. The technical term for this kind of a man is “raging asshole,” and instead of giving us the mother’s story, the film’s focuses on him as he tries to steal enough money to buy back the child, avoid the cops, and dig himself into an ever-deeper hole. It would have been a challenge to make this character even borderline likable, but the Dardennes don’t even try. The amount of callousness, stupidity, and ignorance on display is overwhelming, and in the unearned final scene, we’re suddenly asked to embrace the babymonger’s unlikely redemption. This is the kind of preposterous fake-gritty hokum that gives art house film a bad name–call it the Crash of Cannes.

L’Enfant. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2005. *

[tags]film, dardenne brothers, belgium, cannes, palme d’or, baby, fathers, 1 star, crooks, suffering, asshole, gritty[/tags]