True grittiness

Review: Desolate `Rosetta' is rich in integrity.

January 28, 2000|By Ann Hornaday | Ann Hornaday,SUN FILM CRITIC

Obsession lies at the center of "Rosetta," but not the kind we're used to seeing on screen.

Emilie Dequenne delivers a searing performance as the title character in Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardennes' grim portrait of a young girl living on the margins of society.

The movie opens as Rosetta is fired from a position in a factory. In an extraordinary scene, she explodes in a fury of resentment and desperation, refusing to leave.

From there, the filmmakers follow Rosetta with unblinking fascination. The teen-ager, who lives with her alcoholic mother in a trailer park outside Saraing, Belgium, has fashioned a routine of rituals for herself, carefully changing shoes in the woods before she goes into work, or improvising a fish trap out of a broken bottle and a piece of wire.

As accomplished as Rosetta is in cobbling together this idiosyncratic existence, she longs for a life of normalcy. That life seems within reach when she meets a kind waffle maker (Fabrizio Rongione), who is the first person to take an interest in her. But Rosetta's single-mindedness will come between them, ultimately leading to a life-or-death confrontation.

There's not much that's conventionally "entertaining" about "Rosetta" -- it's too unrelentingly desolate to be a fun night out -- but it has a core of integrity that's missing from most other films that beg to be liked.

Much like its heroine, "Rosetta" pulses with a gritty, uncompromising life force that won't be denied.


Starring Emilie Dequenne

Directed by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne

Rated R (language)

Running time 94 minutes

Released by USA Films

Sun score **1/2

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