The Unknown Girl by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne is featuring a female doctor in search of the name of a young woman found dead near her practice.
Tired and upset by the behavior of his student to whom she’s trying to teach the key to good diagnosis, the young general practitioner Jenny Davin prevents her intern to open the door when someone rings an hour after the closure of her practice. The next day, the police informs her that a young girl was found dead on a nearby bank of the Meuse. The practice’s surveillance camera reveals that the dead girl is the person to whom she refused to open!
Racked with guilt
The police doesn’t know the girl’s identity as nothing can identify her. Racked with guilt for not having opened the door of her practice, Jenny (Adèle Haenel) embarks in a genuine investigation to find the name of the unknown girl, of African origin. Her investigation is made on a background of medical practice in Seraing, a suburb of Liege, of compassion for the sick with modest social status. Twists and turns worthy of a thriller – where the suspects are to be found among the people close to the investigation – will involve her with Bryan (Louka Minnella), a teenager among her patients who has something to hide, his father (Jérémie Renier) and even the underworld, after a visit to a cyber cafe that serves as a prostitution relay. Smoothly, by dint of obstinacy and strength, the doctor of bodies and souls will manage to bring out the truth.
The unknown girl in herhead
Adèle Haenel is a doctor in the way of A. J. Cronin, the doctor-writer of The Citadel and The Keys of the Kingdom, a “doctor of the poor” for whom medicine is a priesthood. Jenny professes that a doctor must be stronger than one’s feelings to make a valid diagnostic, characteristic of a good doctor. She also deploys her energy to put back her intern Julien (Olivier Bonnaud) on the track of medicine.
We follow the heroin in her consultations, interspersed with moments spent on the investigation, as if she was trying to cure the disease the death of the unknown girl brought in her mind. The unknown girl is in her head means she is not dead…
A story carried by Adèle Haenel
The film, shot in close-ups, often focusing on faces, is made with natural light and sounds, without music to support the emotions that simply comes from the images and situations, without frills. The plot is punctuated by two ubiquitous sounds: the ringing of the pratice’s front door, to which Jenny reacts like a dog would react to that operated by Pavlov, and her iPhone ringtone, both punctuating the turns in her investigation. The Unknown Girl, made with modesty of means, has nothing really sensational, but tells a simple and profound history – fully supported by Adèle Haenel – who still lives in us after the screening.
The Dardennes, regulars on La Croisette
Adèle Haenel received the César for Best Actress for her role in Les Combattants (The Fighters), a year after having already won the Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Suzanne.
The Dardenne brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc, received a first Palme d’Or in 1999 for Rosetta, which at the same time revealed Emilie Dequenne, winner of the Best Actress award. Since then, they are among the Festival’s favorite directors with their realistic and sometimes activists movies: in 2002, they present Le Fils (The Son) with which Olivier Gourmet won the Best Actor prize. They receive a second Palme d’Or in 2005 with L’Enfant, a Screenplay Award for Le Silence de Lorna (Lorna’s Silenc (2008). They also drop the Grand Prix with Le Gamin au Vélo in 2011. In 2014, two days, A Night was presented in Competition, as all their films since The Promise in 1996, which revealed them to the Fortnight.
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