L'Enfant Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne

The Belgian sibling duo of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne triumph in what may be their finest film to date. The title ostensibly refers to a baby born to young Sonia (Deborah Francois) and her petty thief boyfriend Bruno (Jeremie Renier), but as Bruno is pathologically incapable of responsible behaviour, it may as well refer to him. He makes the biggest mistake of his life when he sells the baby on a whim, crushing Sonia and sending him into a downward spiral as he tries to recover his son and pay off the subsequent kill fee, all of which is rendered in vivid and unflinching detail by the Dardennes at the top of their form. Though Bruno does all manner of unconscionable things, the filmmakers never condemn him outright, choosing instead to see how his bad choices lead to a quagmire of consequences from which he can't escape, and how his total selfishness masks a strong desire to transcend the miserable working world to which he's been condemned. Your jaw will drop at some of the things he does and you'll want to slap him for his stupidity, but in the end you'll be on the edge of your seat in wonder of how he'll get out of his trap. Those who have accused the filmmakers of making empty films where nothing happens will be stunned by the barrage of incident and penetrating analysis - where any other director would have made the baby portion the entire trajectory, the Dardennes make it part of a process that gradually leads him to his Waterloo. It's a masterpiece, one of the best films of the year, and totally shouldn't be missed, in or out of the festival. (Mongrel Media)