Can a film that holds no surprises be of value? In the case of Our Children, which masterfully plays with stylistic conventions and all-too-common instances of real-life infanticide, the answer is decidedly yes. Originally given the more direct title of À perdre la raison, the story concerns Mounir (Tahar Rahim), a young Moroccan man who isn’t living up to the expectations of his surrogate father, paper-marriage brother-in-law, and mentor, Dr. André Pinget (Niels Arestrup). Instead of completing medical school, Mounir is consumed by his passion for Murielle (Émilie Dequenne). With true love on their side, they marry and have four children in rapid succession—yet, due to financial and murky emotional reasons, continue to live with Pinget. Focus gradually shifts from Mounir to Murielle, showing her unraveling under the weight of two bullying patriarchs, work, housework, and kids. Divided into male and female ends, Our Children establishes distinct aesthetics and rhythms in each half: the first, moving as quickly as Mounir’s lusty, rabbit-like haunches, feels like a parade of cheaply heaped-on plot points; the second gives space to small moments, such as when Murielle slowly puts on a traditional Moroccan dress given to her by her mother-in-law—one she doesn’t take off for the rest of the film, a symbol of her worsening illness. Throughout, director Joachim Lafosse shoots tight close-ups with half of the screen obscured by blurs, further directing your focus and establishing depth in what would be an otherwise flat digital image, a choice that will either enchant or annoy.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 31, 2013