The Unknown Girl (2016) [La fille inconnue]


Cast includes: Adèle Haenel (Love at First Fight), Olivier Bonnaud, Jérémie Renier (The Kid with a Bike)
Writers/Directors: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (Two Days, One Night, The Kid with a Bike)
Genre: Drama | Mystery (113 minutes) French with subtitles

Huffington Post

Jenny Davin’s professionalism and dedication are obvious, even though she’s very low key. Julien, her intern, could learn much from her… not just the medical knowledge but also how to behave in a way that promotes confidence. When a young patient has a seizure in the office, Julien is obviously upset. But thanks to Jenny’s calm competence, everyone gets through it. It’s been a busy day; it’s late and the bell rings downstairs. Julien goes to answer it, but Jenny stops him. “What if it’s an emergency?” Julien asks. “If it is, they’ll ring again,” she answers. But there’s only one ring, and Jenny is late for a reception at the Kennedy Group. It’s a very prestigious medical practice, and she’ll be joining the team next week as their newest doctor. Her patients at the clinic will be sorry to see her leave, even though she’s only been filling in temporarily for Dr. Harban, who recently retired.

As it turns out, the patient’s seizure yesterday was more upsetting for Julien than Jenny had realized, and he won’t be continuing with his medical training. She’ll have to talk with him more, but now she has house calls to make. At the clinic, a police inspector wants to see her. There was an “incident” last night, and the footage on the clinic’s video camera might shed some light. Apparently, the person who rang the bell downstairs has been found dead in the river across the highway. She had no ID or phone… no identification at all. The video shows a young girl who looks like a recent African immigrant. Although the clinic has a few African families, Jenny doesn’t recognize her. And the files she gets from Dr. Harban don’t provide many clues, either. If only she had opened the door, as Julien had wanted to…

Whether driven by guilt or by a sense of duty, Jenny feels compelled to make inquiries. At first, there are absolutely no clues, but she takes a screenshot of the unknown girl and shows it to anyone and everyone she can. As clues finally begin to materialize, Jenny becomes obsessed with finding the identity of the girl. The Unknown Girl was written and directed by the Dardenne brothers, who are known for their naturalistic film style. As with this one, most of their films focus on social issues of the Belgium lower classes. While this film is a mystery, it is as undramatic as any they have made. Adèle Haenel as Jenny rarely shows even the glimmer of heightened emotion, yet her performance is spot on. Naturalistic movies often look more like documentaries than a scripted story… and they don’t appeal to everyone. However, that non-drama style takes a great deal of expertise to achieve, and the Dardenne brothers are considered masters of the genre. Every scene, plot point and line of dialog is meticulously planned and crafted to achieve an effect that looks totally unaffected. While continuing to care for patients, Jenny is unable to leave this mystery for the police. “I can’t accept the idea they’ll bury her with no name.” Anyway, it seems unlikely that the police will give this case much attention… just another unfortunate immigrant.

popcorn rating

3 popped kernels

A young doctor is compelled to find out the identity of an unknown girl found dead near her clinic

Popcorn Profile

Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Style: Sensitive
Distribution: Art House and Small Screen
Mood: Sober
Tempo: Cruises Comfortably
Visual Style: Unvarnished Realism
Nutshell: Finding the identity of an unknown dead girl
Language: True to life

Social Significance: Thought Provoking

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