Clichés Firmly in Place, Moscow, Belgium Still Won't Leave You Feeling Dirty


Moscow, Belgium
Directed by Christophe Van Rompaey
NeoClassics Films
Opens December 19, Cinema Village

We're not talking the Dardennes brothers here, but fellow Belgian Christophe Van Rompaey gives this light May-to-December pair-up an agreeably mussed, pedestrian milieu. Rather than an exquisitely frumpified rom-com creation, Matty (Barbara Sarafian), 41, is a middle-class Ghent mother of three pretending to be shrewish while her experimentally estranged hubby dithers. (Her neighborhood's "Moscow" moniker is just title bait.) A fender-bender triggers a persistent suitor in lanky, rangy trucker Johnny (Jurgen Delnaet), and their one-night stand leads, a few requisite demurrals later, to a home-cooked dinner with her and the kids (menu: blood sausage and stewed apples). But out of emotional routine, Matty still humors the indecision of her weak-willed art-teacher husband, who's like a sitcom neighbor with an excuse to drop by. The clichés are firmly in place, no question: Johnny is Mr. Fix-It, drawing out her shy son with comic-book references, and the romantic volleying chugs along until it's suddenly time not to. Yet Sarafian's maternally weary manner suits the low-key tone perfectly (and the accordion score is admirably unrepentant). Though it backs away from Johnny's adventuresomely not-funny past (courtesy of his rival asking, sigh, "a friend at the police station"), Moscow, Belgium leaves you feeling less offended and dirty-feeling than the evidence suggests.


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