Promesse, La

Director: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Year Released: 1996
Rating: 3.0

At the core of this cinema verite-style work by the Dardennes is this extremely fascinating father-son relationship where the father alternates between being calm and demanding (often abusive) towards his son while the boy is still something of a blank slate, his only sense of reality (and ethics) being filtered through the father. The directors' past work on documentaries (and the use of free camera movement and natural lighting) and refusal to resort to standard storytelling or film style – they abandon establishing shots or elaborate explanations, trusting the audience to understand it all – bestow it with a kinetic energy and unpredictability sorely lacking in most films. Slows down a bit near the end (and I couldn't stop wondering why the boy hadn't divulged the 'secret' earlier, saving a lot of grief) but still a worthy predecessor to Rosetta (which substitutes a developing young man with a 'developing' young woman).