- The Washington Times - Friday, August 28, 2009

“Lorna’s Silence” is an interesting and entertaining film — well-acted; tightly scripted; shot in an unassuming naturalistic style, the minimalism of which places audiences right in the heart of the action — that poses a more difficult moral dilemma than its authors might have intended.

As the movie opens, Lorna (Arta Dobroshi) finds herself in a bind: Having married junkie Claudy (Jeremie Renier) to gain Belgian citizenship, she is faced with the unpleasant task of aiding in his murder so she can marry a Russian businessman in order for him also to gain citizenship. Arranging this sordid state of affairs is Fabio (Fabrizio Rongione), a scheming cab driver who has no moral compunction against murdering addicts.

Lorna fell in with this group not because she needed money to aid a sick family member or to pay off the mob or for some other life-threatening reason. Rather, she wants to open a snack bar with her boyfriend, Sokol (Alban Ukaj) and needs seed money. The Russian’s euros will provide the down payment. But can they assuage Lorna’s guilt?

The banality of Lorna’s ethical transgression is what makes the picture alternately fascinating and frustrating. After all, how invested can the audience become in her struggles once they fully grasp the utter depravity of her decision: She and her boyfriend have agreed to murder a human being so she can open a juice joint. Though his addiction is meant to alleviate the guilt she should feel — he’s not a productive member of society! — the “life unworthy of life” mentality she holds should shock audiences all the more.

Unfortunately, the Dardenne brothers (Jean-Pierre and Luc, who co-wrote and co-directed) give Lorna something of a pass by showing only her change of heart. We don’t see the initial callous calculation; we only see her decision to pursue a fast-track divorce instead of aiding in Claudy’s dispatching after he cleans himself up. Additionally, the brothers saddle Lorna with a (possibly phantom) pregnancy, another move intended to ratchet up our sympathy for the protagonist.

Leaving these moral quibbles aside, there is much to praise in “Lorna’s Silence.” The acting is simply superb: Miss Dobroshi breathes real humanity into Lorna, while Mr. Rongione does much the opposite with the slimy Fabio. The real delight is Mr. Renier’s Claudy. His struggle with addiction and eventual reformation is the best portrayal of the dangers of drug use since Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly’s gut-wrenching turns in 2000’s “Requiem for a Dream.”

★★★

TITLE: “Lorna’s Silence”

RATING: R (brief sexuality/nudity, and language)

CREDITS: Written and directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne

RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes

WEB SITE: https://www.sonyclassics.com/lornassilence/

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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