La Promesse

  • 1996
  • 1 HR 33 MIN
  • NR
  • Drama

This quietly powerful film from Belgian producers-writers-directors Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne owes something to the Italian Neo-realists and the early films of Francois Truffaut, but it's a remarkable experience strictly on its own terms. Fifteen-year-old Igor (Jeremie Renier) lives in a depressed suburb of Liege, Belgium, permanently in the shadow of...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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This quietly powerful film from Belgian producers-writers-directors Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne owes something to the Italian Neo-realists and the early films of Francois Truffaut, but it's a remarkable experience strictly on its own terms. Fifteen-year-old Igor

(Jeremie Renier) lives in a depressed suburb of Liege, Belgium, permanently in the shadow of his burly, domineering father Roger (Olivier Gourmet). Igor would like to finish his mechanic's apprenticeship and hang out with his friends, but Roger demands he help out in the family business: For a

small fortune, Roger provides illegal immigrants with an address, promises them residence permits, then puts them to work on his construction site. When West African illegal Hamidou (Rasmane Ouedraogo) falls from a scaffolding, Roger refuses to run the risk of taking him to a hospital. To Igor's

horror, Hamidou dies, but not before he makes the teenager promise to take care of his newly arrived wife (Assita Ouedraogo) and baby. Keeping that promise forces Igor to define his own code of ethics and, in turn, himself -- even if it means betraying his own father. Former documentary

filmmakers, the Dardenne brothers infuse their film with a raw immediacy that belies careful visual compositions and a complex structure. But character is what it's all about, and the characterizations rise subtly to the surface, aided by extraordinary acting. Renier is an exceptional,

naturalistic talent, able to convey his spiritual journey through facial expressions alone, and Gourmet pulls off the difficult task of portraying the rapacious father without turning him into a caricature of a monster.

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  • Released: 1996
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: This quietly powerful film from Belgian producers-writers-directors Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne owes something to the Italian Neo-realists and the early films of Francois Truffaut, but it's a remarkable experience strictly on its own terms. Fifteen-year-o… (more)

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