Our Children Reviews
For Murielle(Emilie Dequenne), her own family history has been tumultuous before meeting Mounir(Tahar Rahim), as exemplified by her difficult older sister Francoise(Stephane Bissot). Even at the young age of 20, Murielle is ready to settle down with Mounir, even as she is cautioned by Mounir's stepfather Andre(Niels Arestrup) to take her time. She doesn't.
Still, this is a family with its warning signs if one is looking for them. Andre is only married to Fatima(Mounia Raoui) so she could get her papers. But otherwise he has no apparent outside social life, as he is invited along to Mounir and Murielle's honeymoon. Mounir has failed his exams, so he has settled down to work in Andre's office.
Critical response was generally strong and the film was nominated for seven Magritte Awards, winning four, including Best Film and Best Director for Lafosse. The film was selected as the Belgian entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards, but it did not make the final shortlist.
The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "In one of her strongest leading roles to date, Dequenne (The Girl on the Train, Rosetta) does a remarkable job depicting Murielle's wavering psychological states as she heads for oblivion, and an extended sequence-shot where she drives home while singing a Julien Clerc song is particularly unforgettable
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It is based on a real-life incident involving a woman (Genevieve Lhermitte), who killed her five children. The film competed in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival under the title Loving Without Reason, where Émilie Dequenne won the Un Certain Regard Award for Best Actress
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"Our Children" opens with Murielle in a hospital ward weeping burial plans. What happens next describes the prior buoyant relationship between her and Mounir ("A Prophet" and "The Past's" Tahar Rahim) and his surrogate father André (Niels Arestrup, also of "A Prophet"), a physician who lives with and financially provides for the quickly married couple. Though Lafosse isn't so much interested in the HOW of the events as he is the WHY, and even then the reasons are more ruminative than explanatory or demystifying, and despite that Lafosse -- who wrote the loosely-based script with Thomas Bidegain and Matthieu Reynaert -- largely sticks to the facts of the matter, though issuing Murielle and Mounir four kids instead of five.
I wouldn't have it any other way. So much as I am someone who can easily stomach anything in the gore range of "Antichrist" and "Salo" to the relatively obscure gross-out masterpiece "Melancholie der Engel", the "Blue Valentine"/"-Is the Warmest Color"-type emotional devastation of "Our Children" -- and this just might have been kicking in the caffeine I'd ingested both beforehand and throughout my specific viewing -- I found to be particularly draining. For that I want to champion especially Dequenne as the grieving first bride and then mother. It takes a certain dens- and virtuosity to play seduced and abandoned with as much fragile sympathy as she does. (One scene in particular that has Murielle breaking into tears during a love song she hears driving on the radio, guided in one motionless take, though the film as a whole missed the Oscar shortlist, should have nonetheless been submitted as the pièce de résistance of a separate highlight reel.)
Given the present themes of patriarchy and family life I can only imagine how Danish director Susanne Bier would have handled similar material, or, given "Our Children's" tricky grisly subject matter, the Parisian auteur Jacques Audiard of "Prophet" and "Rust & Bone" fame. But Lafosse chose to turn this into a movie, and it's the feature that should unofficially announce him as a filmmaker to be put on the map. This is a masterful rendition of real-life happenstance, told visually with the always peeking eye of a liable onlooker. We along with the film wonder, from the male-dominated perspective of our cultural delusion, if the postpartum depression of Genevieve Lhermitte could have been helped, and if five lives could have been saved. (83/100)