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The Promise (1996)The Promise (1996)

The Promise (1996)

A gritty, realist thriller and a bitter coming-of-age tale all in one

Drama

7.6

movie

Belgium, France

French, Romanian

Dark, Gripping, Raw

1996

Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

Jérémie Renier, Olivier Gourmet

94 min

Synopsis

Igor, aged 15, and his father Roger deal in housing and peddling illicit labor in the outlying districts of Liege, Belgium. Scams, lies and swindling rule their lives. When one of his father’s illegal workers gets injured on the job and asks Igor to promise to take care of his wife and baby, Igor finds himself at a crossroad. He wants to keep the promise, but the price would be to betray his father.

Our Take

7.6
The Staff

The Promise has all the trappings of a sleazy crime drama, but there’s a sense of innocence buried underneath all the dirt that helps set it apart. Even as Igor helps his father do the shadiest things to exploit the illegal immigrants under their care, you can see the boy slowly wake up to the realization that life can’t just be a series of transactions, rewards, and punishments. As writers and directors, the Dardenne brothers present Igor’s coming of age with frankness and without pretension—even when a hint of the mystical begins to compel him to tell the truth. It might not seem all that complex at first, but the details that make up this world are fully immersive from start to finish.

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