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A complicated tale of conscience

Those wacky Dardenne brothers are at it again!

In "Lorna's Silence," Belgian neo-neo-realist filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne return with another bleak, uneasy morality tale that'll have you leaving the theater either glad you went through it or upset that it turned you into a depressed wreck.

Once again set in the Dardennes' native Belgium, the movie tells the story of an Albanian émigré (the Ellen Page-looking Arta Dobroshi) who's married to a junkie (Jeremie Renier) trying to get straight. Although it looks like she wants nothing to do with this guy, she knows it's the only way she can get money for the snack bar she wants to open with her boyfriend (Alban Ukaj). You see, this is all a ruse hatched by a taxi-driving mobster (Fabrizio Rongione), who wants Lorna married so she can get Belgian citizenship and then get married to a Russian mafioso (Anton Yakovlev), who'll pay her for her Belgian identity papers. However, in order for all of this to happen, the junkie has to exit the picture, which means to suddenly, accidentally die from an overdose.

As you can see, "Silence" is just like Denise Richards (read: It's complicated), and the Dardennes certainly don't stop to make sure you're up to speed. But the first half is thoroughly compelling, even when you're still trying to figure out how all this came to be in the first place. You follow Lorna every step of the way (you have no choice, because the camera follows only her throughout the movie) as she begins to grow soft on the pathetic addict and does what she can to make sure he walks away from this ordeal unscathed. She even does some damage to herself so she can say he beats her and they can get a divorce.

With that said, it's a bit disappointing when the movie goes off the rails in the second half, as both the movie and Lorna descend into quiet madness. Apparently, in the Dardennes' world, when someone experiences a crisis of conscience, it's cause for one to lose his mind altogether.

But, then again, people having their insides turned out by guilt, suddenly realizing they must do the right thing (usually when it's too late), has been a constant theme in the Dardennes' work. And "Lorna's Silence," while not the best of the Dardennes' canon, is another gritty piece of naturalistic filmmaking that shows that even desperate people stuck in the seedy underbelly of society can have a change of heart.

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