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The Unknown Girl

The Unknown Girl

Oct. 05, 2016 Belgium106 Min.
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8.7 1,349 votes

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Jenny, a young doctor who feels guilty after a young woman she refused to see winds up dead a few days later, decides to find out who the girl was, after the police can’t identify the young woman.

The Unknown Girl
The Unknown Girl
The Unknown Girl
The Unknown Girl
The Unknown Girl
Original titleLa Fille inconnue
IMDb Rating6.5 3,044 votes
TMDb Rating5.9 42 votes

(9) comments

  • Howard SchumannOctober 4, 2016Reply

    About moral character, accountability, and spiritual redemption

    While The Unknown Girl, the latest film by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
    (”Two Days, One Night”), is suggestive of social and political issues
    such as immigration, unemployment, and economic imbalance, its main
    concern is with moral character, accountability, and spiritual
    redemption. Like many other films of the Dardenne Brothers, it is
    simple, natural, and direct, without using a musical background or
    resorting to sentimentality. Consistent with recent exceptional
    performances from established actresses such as Cecile de France in The
    Kid With a Bike and Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night, Adele
    Haenel (”Love at First Flight”) is transfixing as Dr. Jenny Davin, a
    young general practitioner in Saraing, Belgium whose quiet strength,
    professionalism, and fierce determination dominate the film and make it
    a worthy addition to the two-time Palme d’Or winners’ oeuvre.

    Shot by cinematographer Alain Marcoen (”Two Days, One Night”), the film
    begins at a small clinic where Jenny has been filling in for the
    retiring Dr. Habran (Yves Larec) but must soon decide whether to accept
    a more lucrative position out of town. When a young boy has
    convulsions, Jenny deal with it promptly but later calls out her
    intern,, Julien (Olivier Bonnaud) for letting his emotions get the
    better of him, a dressing down that causes him to rethink whether or
    not he wants to be a doctor, though she later confesses to him that she
    was being high-handed. Her next admonition to Julien, however, has much
    more serious consequences.

    When they hear an after-hours buzzing on the intercom, she instructs
    him to ignore it, telling the young intern that he cannot let patients
    rule him. When a young African woman is found dead on the opposite side
    of the freeway by the river Meuse, however, Jenny is riddled with
    guilt. It is soon clear that the deceased woman was the same person who
    knocked on their door late at night, yet without any identification
    papers, discovering her identity and the cause of her death is a
    challenge which becomes the central focus of the film. Though it deals
    with a possible criminal investigation, it is less of a ”whodunit” than
    an exploration of the many ways in which people deal with feelings of
    guilt.

    Realizing that if she had answered the ring, the young woman might
    still be alive, Jenny takes it upon herself to conduct a solo
    investigation. Hoping to discover the victim’s name and find anyone who
    knew her in order to give her a proper burial, Jenny walks around the
    town, talking to adults and children who may have seen the woman,
    showing them her photo and reassuring them that any information they
    provide will be held in confidence. Though most are in denial and
    refuse to cooperate, Jenny is able to pick up important signals,
    especially in an interview with a teenager (Louka Minneli) when his
    accelerated pulse rate indicates that he may not be telling the truth.

    The Unknown Girl is mostly muted with little variation in tone, but
    there are moments of joy when two young male patients sing a lovely
    song they wrote for Jenny, and when an elderly woman throws a gift of a
    panettone out the window into Jenny’s waiting arms. It also touches on
    the spiritual when a man asks Jenny, ”Why should I screw up my life if
    she’s already dead?” and Jenny replies, ”Because, if she were dead, she
    wouldn’t be on our minds.” While a too-neat resolution and a lack of
    the element of surprise keep the film from being in the top rank of the
    Dardennes’ works, its message that healing can only begin when there is
    a willingness to communicate and to be responsible for one’s actions is
    as good as any that have been delivered in previous films.

  • dromascaOctober 17, 2016Reply

    guilt and responsibility

    It’s a small and dull city as many other in Belgium and Europe. It is
    inhabited by a mixed population, ‘local’ Europeans, more recent but
    well integrated Europeans (some of them are police inspectors), recent
    immigrants, some legal, some not. Again, as in many other cities of
    Belgium and Europe. This quite typical landscape of a place like many
    other in an Europe in change is the setting for ‘La fille inconnue’ the
    most recent film of brothers Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne and
    as in many of their recent movies the characters fight not only the
    dullness of life and problems in communication but also face moral
    choices and need to assume responsibility for their acts.

    The lead character is a young doctor in the community, who deeply cares
    about her patients. Being just a professional is not enough if you are
    a physician, this kind of message is quite obvious and smartly
    developed, as the best scenes in the film are the ones where we see
    doctor Jenny Davin interacting with her patients, taking care of their
    bodies but also of their life conditions and eventually of their souls.
    When faced with the guilt of not having answered a ring at the door
    much later than her work hours, which led to the tragic death of a
    young woman apparently followed by some bad people, the feelings of
    guilt will lead her to run her own inquiry with the main goal of
    discovering the identity of the victim and ensuring her family knows
    her fate, and that she is properly put to rest. This will let to the
    eventual discovery of the murderer, in a case that involves a
    non-negligible dose of shared responsibility of the people who
    surrounded her.

    The film is very much based on the lead character, one of these people
    who are capable of showing compassion and giving almost everything in
    there personal lives in order to help their human fellows. From this
    point of view it resembles another film of the Dardenne brothers which
    I liked a lot – The Kid with a Bike (Le gamin au velo). There are bad
    people in this world, but there are also good ones, and it’s worth
    making films about them – this seems to be the shared message of the
    two films. ‘La fille inconnue’ however lacks the magnetism of The Kid
    and although Adèle Haenel gives a remarkable performance, this is not
    enough to fill in for the lack of pace and the rather unconvincing
    ending. Brother Dardenne’s characters may seem to good to be true, and
    they do not owe anybody an explanation for being so – that’s fine, but
    in the absence of a solid motivation there need to be more dramatic
    substance in the story. This is exactly what is missing in this film,
    just seeing good people in action in a difficult community may be
    enough for a documentary, but not for a full feature.

  • Ruben MooijmanOctober 17, 2016Reply

    A crime thriller from the Dardenne brothers

    A dead body near the riverbank. An inconclusive police investigation. A
    prostitution network, operating from a shady bar. It sounds like the
    classic ingredients for a Raymond Chandler crime story. In reality,
    it’s the set-up for ‘La Fille Inconnue’, the latest film by the Belgian
    film makers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne.

    With this crime story, they explore a new genre. Usually, their films
    are social dramas about people on the fringes of society and their
    daily struggle for life. With this approach, they have made many very
    intense and moving films. But in my opinion, they were starting to
    repeat themselves. ‘Deux Jours, Une Nuit’, from 2014 was much acclaimed
    but overrated.

    In many of their films, the plot development is secondary to the
    emotional power of the performances. Not so in ‘La Fille Inconnue’. The
    plot is exciting and functional in carrying the story forward. The
    central character is a young doctor, who gets obsessed by a murder case
    because the victim rang her doorbell minutes before being killed. The
    doctor didn’t answer the bell, and blames herself for it. She is
    determined to reveal the identity of the victim and starts an
    investigation of her own. Because she is a doctor, she is bound by an
    oath of silence and can’t share her information with the police – a
    very clever script element. At the end, she manages to solve the crime.
    But at the same time, the truth confronts her with the fact that the
    victim would still be alive if she had opened the door.

    Of course, this is not a classic crime thriller in the style of, let’s
    say, Claude Chabrol. The Dardenne brothers remain true to their
    trademark hyper-realistic style and to their social conscience. The
    young doctor is treating poor, displaced, and lonely people. She
    herself is a solitary, business-like character. The film is set in the
    gritty industrial town of Seraing near Liège, the home base of the
    Dardennes. It’s populated by working class people. They don’t show
    emotions easily, and that goes for the doctor as well.

    The crime element makes ‘La Fille Inconnue’ stand out in a positive
    way. It’s one of the best films the Dardenne brothers have made in a
    long time. And it’s definitely one of the best films coming out of
    Belgium this year. Never mind the lukewarm reception of this film in
    Cannes.

  • veenusavDecember 18, 2016Reply

    public events can be personal responsibility too…

    A lady doctor is searching the identity of an unknown girl who is dead
    near to her clinic. This french movie even does not show the girl’s
    face in a frame! But the power of the subject will haunt the audience
    like anything. It is not exaggerating anything even the doctor’s act
    for heroism. She is just having perseverance in this matter. That’s
    all. As citizen, anybody can be more responsible about a public
    incident. It is the message strike in my head. Even at a point of time,
    the police official lightly showing his ego by telling that ‘doctor, we
    know how to deal the case well’. Still doctor is stable and confident
    on the matter. Missing of sex at old ages, the form of oldest
    profession (prostitution), the value of a doctor in a society,
    psychological aspects which affects the man who has unknowingly
    involved in the crime scene. All been discussed well.

  • Claudio CarvalhoFebruary 15, 2017Reply

    Human Values and Obsession

    The efficient Dr. Jenny Davin (Adèle Haenel) works hard and has been
    chosen to replace Dr. Habran (Yves Larec), who has just retired, at the
    Kennedy Hospital. One night, someone rings the bell of her office
    after-hours and Dr. Davin asks her trainee Julien (Olivier Bonnaud) to
    not open the door since does not to seem an emergency. On the next
    morning, Police Inspectors Ben Mahmoud (Ben Hamidou) and Bercaro
    (Laurent Caron) require her surveillance tape since a teenager was
    found dead on the other side of the road and they are investigating
    what happened. Jenny feels guilty for not opening the door and becomes
    obsessed to find the teenager’s identity. Her investigation affects her
    relationship with patients that might know something about the unknown
    girl.

    ”La fille inconnue”, a.k.a. (”The Unknown Girl”, is a film impressively
    realistic with a storyline of human values and obsession. Like most of
    the European movies (Belgium / France), the plot is developed at a
    slow-pace, supported by the great performance of Adèle Haenel. It is
    good to see the human values of her character that is deeply affected
    by her attitude. It is also interesting to see how doctors work in
    France, going to the patient’s home and attending also during the
    night. My vote is seven.

    Title (Brazil): ”A Garota Desconhecida” (”The Unknown Girl”)

  • Jugu Abraham ([email protected])February 27, 2017Reply

    Uplifting cinema based on a stunning original screenplay

    Absolutely amazing! A brilliant original screenplay with hardly any
    music. A great lead performance from Adele Haenel. The real heroes are
    the Belgian director-duo Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes. Just can’t
    believe this gem of a film lost out to ”Toni Erdmann” and ”Personal
    Shopper,” at Cannes. I can however believe it losing out to ”I, Daniel
    Blake” and ”It’s not the End of the World.”

    The greatness of the Dardennes’ cinema lies in the choice of the
    subjects and how each of their films would make you a better person. I
    admire them because most of their subjects are original and believable.
    This should have won more awards than it did. I am confident it will be
    recognized over time.

  • Tom DooleyMarch 8, 2017Reply

    Belgian Mystery Thriller that is both bleak and rather good

    Dr Jenny Davin is a young go getter, she is running a small practice
    but is destined for much better things in the filed of medicine. She
    has an intern/locum who she rides pretty hard and seems to be lacking
    in all but professional courtesies.

    Then one night her practice door bell rings and she refuses to have it
    answered. Later she finds that it was the last attempt of a young girl
    to get help before she was murdered. Faced with the weight of what she
    has done – or rather not done – she becomes obsessed with finding out
    who the girl was and so begins a quest for the truth.

    This is a bleak film, the town is crumbling and grey and everything has
    the feel of neglect – this is replicated in the way some of the people
    are treated and the victim is no exception. However, at the centre of
    it all is hope and decency and so the two are finely balanced against
    each other in a way that holds the yin and yang together nicely.

    The acting is all great too and it will keep your attention until the
    final reveal. It is well written directed and shot too – so not a lot
    not to like – in French this is a film for those who like to an unusual
    plot and appreciate the smaller things that cinema has to offer.

  • Akhil BalachandranMarch 8, 2017Reply

    The story of a caring doctor!!!

    Dr. Jenny Davin is a caring doctor. One evening She hears a knock on
    the surgery’s front door after closing time and decides to ignore it.
    The next day, the body of the unknown visitor found on the banks of the
    Meuse and it’s not from natural causes. With the help of security
    camera footage, Jenny decides to find out the identity of the unknown
    visitor. The story of the movie is very intimate and like Dardenne
    brothers previous movies, this film also focuses on a female character.
    Jenny’s character was nicely handled by Haenel. They always place the
    female character in an unfamiliar situation. Like ‘Two Days, One Night’
    this film also follows some door to door conversation. Overall, it’s a
    one time watchable investigation drama and Haenel’s caring character
    was one of the best things that happened in this film.

  • Raven-1969April 2, 2017Reply

    Beguiling Themes; guilt, doctor-patient relationship, immigrants, underworld, . .

    ”A good doctor is not emotional,” maintains Dr. Jenny Davin. ”If you
    are moved by a patient’s suffering, it causes a bad diagnosis.” Dr.
    Davin runs a medical clinic in Liege and is moving swiftly up the
    career ladder. Late at night the clinic door buzzer rings. There is a
    young woman and a plea for help. The plea is ignored. Dr. Davin wants
    her good doctor mantra to stick for her office intern. ”She will come
    back tomorrow,” says Dr. Davin of the unknown girl. Yet the next day
    the woman, an immigrant, is found dead. Consumed by guilt, Dr. Davin
    searches for clues to who this woman is and why she died. In this way
    Dr. Davin enters an underworld in the community, full of fear and
    manipulation, that she never knew of before and from which she may not
    return.

    The film explores enticing themes; immigrants trapped in a web of fear,
    finding the balance between too much emotion and too little, and – the
    most beguiling – the right amount of emotion for a doctor to utilize in
    their trade. ”Wouldst thou, then, have preferred the condition of a
    weak woman, exposed to all evil, and capable of none?” Dr. Rappaccini
    asks his daughter Beatrice, in Hawthorne’s wonderful story. ”I would
    fain have been loved,” answers Beatrice ”not feared.” Dr. Davin walks
    the same line between love and fear, empathy and professional judgment,
    arrogance and weakness, . . .

    The Dardenne brothers are masters at their trade. They specialize in
    portraying economic and social justice, as they do here. It is a
    slow-paced, yet seducing film. It is two weeks after I saw the film and
    the lessons it teaches linger. The story simmers in a tantalizing way
    in my mind. Seen at the Miami International Film Festival.

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