The Unknown Girl
(La fille inconnue)
Adèle Haenel, Olivier Bonnaud, Jérémie Renier,
Though the Dardenne brothers are best known for their portraits of working-class lives, the protagonist of their latest film is an empathetic and hard-working doctor. And yet the filmmakers’ allegiance to the lives of the downtrodden and underrepresented remains clear as the story unfolds. Jenny Davin (Adèle Haenel) is working with her intern late one night when someone buzzes for entrance to her practice. Since it’s after hours, Jenny doesn’t answer the call; she finds out the next day that the woman who rang died later that night, and that police have been unable to identify her. Feeling culpable and remorseful, the young physician tries to uncover the identity of the deceased, which takes her into a world of refugees that brushes up against her own in unforeseen ways. Compassion isn’t always an easy emotion to convey, but Haenel gives the character an immensely inviting demeanor, whether she’s making house calls to a man who might have known the woman who died or encouraging her intern to stay in school. With Dardennes regulars Jérémie Renier and Olivier Gourmet in supporting roles, The Unknown Girl is another stellar entry in the Belgian filmmakers’ illustrious careers.