The Ardennes - January 18, 2017 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

The Ardennes

A jagged scar cuts across Kenneth’s (Kevin Janssens) left cheek. In his case, it’s the mark of Cain. He and his brother Dave (Jeroen Perceval) botched a robbery together, but only Kenneth got caught for the crime. When he’s released from jail four years later, things have changed at home. Mild-tempered Dave is an employee at a car wash, suffering small (if daily) humiliations. His only sense of hope comes from his pregnant girlfriend Sylvie (Veerle Baetens, unrecognizable here from her role in The Broken Circle Breakdown). She’s in recovery, sobering up from her substance-abuse addictions and her relationship with — you guessed it — Kenneth. If The Ardennes’ woman- forced-to-choose-between-two-brothers premise sounds soapy, it isn’t. That’s because Belgian director Robin Pront presents a similar point of view as the Dardenne brothers (Two Days, One Night), his countrymen and fellow filmmakers. Their movies depict a working class that’s strapped for cash and perpetually trapped by a lack of upward mobility. For the first hour, you can feel their influence on Pront, the effort toward filming the grit of postindustrial, urban lives. Then he pumps up the soundtrack with electronic dance music, abandoning realism for stylized gore and violence. Ultimately, The Ardennes opts for a brutal and psychologically easy ending that erases what might have been a more nuanced and recognizably human resolution.

The Ardennes
Not rated. Opens Friday at the 4-Star Theatre.