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Films: The Silence of Lorna (15)

Unmissable marriage-of-convenience tale stirs up plenty of inconvenient emotions

Published on December 5th 2008.


Films: The Silence of Lorna (15)

A YOUNG Albanian woman, Lorna (Arta Dobroshi), is sharing a flat in Belgium in unconventional circumstances. Claudy (Jérémie Renier) is a junkie. Lorna is his wife, having married him for citizenship so she can realise her dream of opening a snack bar in Belgium with her long-distance lover. As Claudy struggles to come off drugs, Lorna resists his attempts to draw her into his recovery process – waiting out the time that she can safely divorce him and re-marry a Russian in another illegal deal. But the mobster Lorna is involved with is not a patient man. And there is quicker way for a marriage with a junkie to be severed…

The Silence of Lorna was written and directed by Belgian brothers Jean Pierre and Luc Dardenne and it is a pretty unprepossessing film at first, with a very naturalistic feel, and no incidental music or soundtrack. This leaves the viewer free to focus on the emotional impact of its story, which is where the film excels.

Lorna is shown to be a strong young woman divided by morality and money and Albanian actress Dobroshi is completely convincing.

Her motivations and reservations about her participation in the illegal scheme are also persuasively rendered, making her an equivocal heroine.

Lorna’s complex relationship with Claudy is intelligently developed, with her palpable antagonism at being stuck with this needy individual developing subtly into something softer. For his part, Renier is very watchable, managing to be both repulsive and appealing in equal measure as the faux-spouse whose messed up relationship with Lorna is the one thing helping him combat his addiction.

In many ways this is a difficult film. There are some very uncomfortable scenes, such as when Lorna is harming herself in order to convince a judge that Claudy is violent, or when Claudy is clinging to Lorna in the grip of withdrawal.

But there are also some heartwarming moments, and The Silence of Lorna uses these instances astutely, so that when the impact of the plan hits home, the repercussions are devastating.

Known for their uncompromising films about lower class life in Belgium, the Dardenne brothers have created a gritty film with an intimate story which manages to constantly surprise the audience with its deft plot development and some unexpected editing.

A story of optimism and love and tragedy, the viewer watches helplessly as this emotionless business deal to achieve a better life spirals into something far more devastating. The result is a really moving and memorable piece of cinema, not to be missed.

9/10

The Silence of Lorna opens at FACT Picturehouse on December 19.

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