This melancholic Belgian drama handles several themes to create a raw and powerful piece of cinema.
The film follows the lives of Elise (Veerle Baetens) and Didier (Johan Heldenbergh), though the scenes jump in the timeline the two met haphazardly in a tender fashion and based their love around their mutually fervent passion for bluegrass music. Didier plays the banjo in a local bluegrass band and Elise eventually becomes the lead singer, the two actors prove to be phenomenal performers and create a quaintly touching atmosphere whenever they play together.
Some years later they have a child named Maybelle (Nell Cattrysse) who sadly develops and passes away from cancer after her sixth birthday. The lead characters enter a period of immense grief which is desperately moving for the audience to watch. As the couple try to cope with their loss it is evident that they won’t be able to continue their lives in the same way.
We begin to see a certain angst in Didier’s behaviour as he becomes enveloped in rage when he discovers the government vetoed stem cell research in foetuses due to religious reasons. His wife is on the other hand unbearably wracked with sadness, the flashbacks to happier times make it all the more heart-wrenching. Didier can’t stop from swirling into a cynical pit and during the band’s biggest concert in front of an audience of hundreds he descends into a vocal tirade. The scene itself is a spectacle and incredibly powerful, its duration is uncomfortable and it’s written perfectly.
One can say it shares a similar idea to fellow Oscar nominee ‘Dallas Buyers Club’: a higher institution standing in the way between the disease and the cure. The film strips a human down to its very essence of emotion and feeling, portraying a tragedy and an injustice that shouldn’t have occurred. Brilliant performances by the two protagonists certify this film as a great watch but the Foreign Language Film Oscar lies in another country this year…
My Rating – 7.9/10