Since the inception of cinema, film-makers have used the medium as a way of highlighting social issues and driving social consciousness. However, it’s in times of great change or crisis where this becomes more prevalent. We’re living in politically and socially turbulent times, and as the success of I, Daniel Blake goes to show there’s an audience for this kind of cinema. The Dardenne brother’s last film, Two Days, One Night, focussed on the plight of poor workers. Their latest, The Unknown Girl, tackles healthcare and immigration.
Jenny (Adèle Haenel) is an idealistic young doctor who turned down the chance of a lucrative career in a consultancy to treat welfare patients in a community practice. After a tough day at work and a disagreement with her intern (Olivier Bonnaud), she refuses to open-up the surgery when a young woman arrives out of hours. When Jenny later discovers the body of this unknown girl has been found, guilt drives her on to uncover her identity.
Luc Dardenne and Jean-Pierre Dardenne have built a reputation for creating socially conscious films, and whilst The Unknown Girl doesn’t have the impact of their previous outing it still packs a hefty punch. Jenny is a rather unreadable character, who accepts kindness and intimidation in her stride. It’s this lack of melodrama which makes The Unknown Girl so powerful. This isn’t the story of one remarkable person, but a homage to those who give up their lives to help others.
The Unknown Girl is released on Blu-Ray and DVD by Curzon Artificial Eye on Monday.