Our Children Screen 13 articles

Our Children


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  • Dequenne, as clamped down here as she was feral in Rosetta, makes Murielle’s feelings of suffocation entirely credible, but director Joachim Lafosse hasn’t conceived a formal strategy that conveys more than garden-variety unhappiness.

  • Lafosse keeps his frequently handheld camera close to the characters, a sort of counterweight to his otherwise distant stance of objective observation. It's as if he's acknowledging both a desire to understand his characters and the impossibility of doing so. But in so far as he's able to delineate Murielle, Mounir, and André's states of mind, they're smartly presented as a direct response to the social and political environment that shapes their lives in ways both direct and oblique.

  • There’s the matter of four dead children: the film opens with Murielle in a hospital bed, asking that they be buried in Morocco. Suffice to say that pathos is intertwined with pathology in Lafosse’s fifth feature, inspired by a true story—but Murielle’s decline isn’t any less full of tough home truths.

  • Can a film that holds no surprises be of value? In the case of Our Children, which masterfully plays with stylistic conventions and all-too-common instances of real-life infanticide, the answer is decidedly yes... Divided into male and female ends, Our Children establishes distinct aesthetics and rhythms in each half...

  • The combination of an almost disconcertingly fleet pace and a general strategy of arthouse-elliptical withholding (conflicts only partially come to a head during brief can-I-have-a-word-with-you exchanges) mutes the film’s dramatic interest. But Lafosse’s emphasis on external circumstances over internal motives at least keeps the dynamics of the relationships curiously charged.

  • Though Lafosse’s handling of the actors is pitch-perfect, his sense of structure is more problematic. The decision to start the movie at the end and then jump back several years undercuts the drama; because the viewers suspect what’s coming (especially if they’re familiar with the case Our Children is based on), the foreshadowing becomes transparent, each detail an indicator of things to come. It’s a minor flaw, considering how deftly Lafosse constructs the film’s middle section.

  • Ultimately Lafosseovie is more interested in the doctor, a charming monster, than in the woman. Some viewers may be sickened by their sadomasochistic relationship, but Lafosse and his actors throw themselves into it.

  • It's Dequenne who dominates the film, slowly allowing angst, unease and finally psychosis to creep into her initially round, happy face, culminating in a magnificent single take of uncontrollable tears that paves the way for a final shot of such heartbreaking tragedy that the film, to this point having maintained physical closeness to its characters, can only recoil in horror by literally exiting the family premises.

  • If I'd known in advance what happens in the last 20 minutes, I might not be too excited - but this is one of those slow-burning French (or Belgian) films where everything proceeds so quietly and inexorably that there's a thrill just in stirring from the spell to ask 'How the hell did we end up here?', even if 'here' isn't really very interesting... A harsh, loaded film, unsatisfying but mostly haunting.

  • Deliberately paced and relentlessly oppressive, Our Children is an intensely difficult film to watch, but is nevertheless an important artistic response to the spittle-flecked tabloid demonisation which so often accompanies such horrific – and purportedly inexplicable – cases of infanticide. Here, we’re left with more questions than answers, but LaFosse deserves immense credit for sensitively and unflinchingly exploring the conditions under which something so unspeakably awful might happen.

  • Shot with a hovering camera that at first conveys intimacy that grows increasingly and intentionally intrusive, this and the playful scenes that follow convey a warmth that rapidly draws you in. Mr. Lafosse, who shares screenwriting credit with Matthieu Reynaert and Thomas Bidegain, moves the story forward just as quickly.

  • As Lafosse calmly pushes this claustrophobic domestic triangle to its breaking point, it becomes clear that “Our Children” is not merely a ripped-from-the-headlines horror story, but a more thoughtful and universal study of the unorthodox family unit and the fragility of its gender balance, with even unspoken religious concerns coming into play.

  • The way [Dequenne] goes from quiet suffocation to mental breakdown is nothing short of revelatory; watch that single-shot close-up in which a car-ride sing-along slowly becomes a crying jag, and you’ll be convinced she may be the best European actor of her generation. It’s a near-perfect portrait of a domestic tragedy as a master-and-servant psychodrama, one that leaves catastrophic collateral damage in its wake.

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