There's barely anything to the technical value of the film, thus, Alain Marcoen probably couldn't help the grain over his cinematography, but it all works out, as the questionable definition of the filming adds a rugged grit which proves to be more effective in immersing you into this type of drama than the handheld style of the filming. The effectiveness of any form of style in this film hinges on how it is handled by the directorial duo of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, who seem to either abuse their artistic license any chance they get, or, well, just plain laze out, but distance more often than not either way, though not exactly consistently. Although there is virtually no dynamicity to the tone of this drama, there is some effectiveness to the Dardennes' constant, tediously monotonous meditativeness, and that is because there are occasions in which the brothers find material to meditate on in this promising story concept. Well, maybe it's not exactly the plot concept itself that carries that much potential, - as the lead is unlikable and her trials are relatively light in scale - as much as it's the overall subject matter of this portrait on the struggles of a young woman who comes of age before her time on the back of poverty and looking out for herself, in the place of an unavailable guardian, from a hard world. The very human themes of the film can at least be commended as worthy, and when dramatic heights are reached in this predominantly cold affair, there's no denying that, which isn't to say that you ever forget the weight of this drama, as leading lady Émilie Dequenne, at only seventeen, nails the nuance and emotional layers of this type of struggling youth to carry the final product arguably more than she should. Mind you, a shortage of material holds Dequenne's efforts back, and the problematic drawing of the titular Rosetta character holds back Dequenne's engagement value, but if no one else tries, it's this very important factor in this very meditative character study. Dequenne and some storytelling highlights may be what save the final product from collapsing as contemptible, and yet, with that said, they'd have to work really, really hard to make this film compelling, because at the end of the day, the final product falls flat, particularly with its characterization.
Naturalist in structure, this film really doesn't take any time to flesh out its characters, tossing ultimately inconsequential-feeling supporting roles in and out, and not even putting much exposition into the lead Rosetta character, who is relatable and well-portrayed, but is going to need a lot of exposition before you can get invested in her, due to her being such a problematic lead. I can understand the frustration of Rosetta and her peers, but outside of the charming Fabrizio Rongione's good-hearted Riquet role, no one is likable in this film, and I when I say, "no one", I am largely referring Rosetta, whose dull and angsty attitude, bitterness to everyone around her, - including the well-intentioned - and even doing some seriously low-down deeds for the benefit of herself make her a chore of a lead. Maybe her struggles would be more compelling if they weren't so familiar, because as much as I commend the value of this subject matter, this story is in no moderate way new, even in the way it's told. Seeing as how his is a very European drama, you can probably figure where I'm heading with this, because the reason why there is no exposition is because this is one of those pseudo-experimental, hyper meditative naturalist dramas which lack structure, aimlessly wandering along and trying too hard to establish a sense of realism through a dismissal of score work and a dependence of technical shoddy handheld filming. Wikipedia notes us ignorant Americans' lauding of the lack of score work and of the questionable style as "major factor[s] in [the film's] overall tone", but the irony in such a statement is that without those factors, as well as other elements that try too hard to form naturalism, no tone is formed, or at least not much of one, for although there are effective occasions once direction finds material to draw upon, on the whole, this film lacks resonance, and such a formula is made all the more tedious by sheer monotony. This film's runtime of just barely over 90 minutes is borderline miniscule, but then again, the combination of the story concept and the storytelling style is even more so, thus, this film meanders around and around the same formula of extensive quietness and a whole lot of nothing, and does it all backed by a tone that is thin to begin with, and completely deprived of dynamicity. I suppose I have to give some praise to monotony of the film, as the film is at least too bland to be bad, but make no mistake, it's terribly bland, and often dull, having but a few highlights amidst vacant meanderings, until the final product is secured as flat.
In the end, immersive cinematography and directorial highlights reflect the grit of a worthy story concept, and punctuate a consistent degree of engagement value that is anchored by Émilie Dequenne's nuanced performance, yet the lead and most of her peers are neither well-developed or likable, just as the abstract storytelling style proves to be unoriginal and distancing, and is made all the more tedious by monotonous scripting, until the Dardenne brothers' "Rosetta" falls flat as a generally cold and arguably tedious meditation on coming of age in Belgium in the midst of poverty.
2/5 - Weak