Movie Review – La Promesse

Posted: June 9, 2013 in Movie Reviews
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New Wave movies are a pleasure to watch. It’s like throwing yourself into an abyss from which you don’t want to escape. It’s jeopardized yet it’s clinical. It’s sadistic yet it makes you smile. Of all the new waves I prefer the French film most though I have no concrete reason for it. La Promesse( I doubt even if there is an English name for this movie which means ‘The Promise’) is one of those rare breed of films which completely pulls you into it.

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The movie starts with a young boy working at a mechanic shop and an elderly woman coming there to get her car rectified of some minor problem. The kid makes it work fine for which he refuses to accept any money. The old lady says, “No one works for free in this world” and gets into the car to give him money. She finds her purse stolen. She doesn’t exclaim and even the kid doesn’t react. He asks her matter-of-factly about the places she had visited and asks her to check becauseof a lot of ‘thieves’ around there.

This is just the start of the movie where people don’t express as they usually are supposed to. If it had been some other movie we would have brushed it aside calling the characters as narrow minded with everyone thinking alike. But here the writer can’t be accused because it is how it was meant to be taken.

Till here we come across a humble rather goody goody guy but that close up shot whenever he takes his mobet troubles us. We see there is something inside him that is not revealed to us. It doesn’t take much time for us to find out what it is. He and his ‘dad’ (I must be using a lot of quotes in the review because that’s how the movie actually is) ‘help’ immigrants to get fake papers and settle.

After the collection routine the kid peeks into a door to see a Negro woman. French movie and voyeurism I thought was an unbeatable film and I got all the more eager to watch it. Again even that pleasure was short lived as a series of incident happens. The boy who despite having more than necessary money is not a usual greedy type. He doesn’t get money from the old lady at start.

But only when he helps the husband of the woman I came to knew that he wasn’t watching her and waiting for her slips to fall down. He was indeed watching her take care of her child. It was no mistake of mine to have noticed itwrongly because the camera focuses on the back of the woman wearing white dress. Due to the contrast colorI/we are compelled to view in that way. We all are hypocrites aren’t we?

Disaster strucks when the police come in for a raid. The husband guy falls from a ladder and bleeds to death. He gets ‘promise’ from the kid and asks him to take care of his wife and children. His ‘dad’ doesn’t give a damn and buries him in his godown. There is no close up shot of camera focusing on dead man’s face, people feeling his pulse etc. Its French come on.

Then how the kid takes care of the woman and the child is what the entire story about. JeremieRenier plays the kid who is convincing as an actor can get. Be it riding the mobet (which is incidentally the cover photo of the picture) or collecting money in their dorm or taking care of the Negro woman. He’s the sensible kid whom every mother would want and every children of his age would detest.

There are only two over the top scenes. Over the top here means scenes where people have emoted. One where his ‘dad’ hits him and apologizes and the other one between the same pair when he ties his dad in the climax and sets out to help the Negro woman. The latter being the best scene. You’ll know why when you watch the movie. Rest all are subdued emotions.

Very rarely movies stay true to its title and it’s one such movie but wouldn’t he have helped the lady and the kid even if he had not promised the Negro man?

P.S: I had ‘dad’ in quotes because till now I’m not sure whether he’s his dad or just his care taker. I couldn’t see any love when the kid addresses him as ‘dad’.

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