3 Best Movies to Watch by Émilie Dequenne

Staff & contributors

Rosetta begins fiercely, with a shaky handheld camera chasing the eponymous teenager (Émilie Dequenne) as she storms across a factory floor and bursts into a room to confront the person she believes has just lost her her job. The film seldom relents from this tone of desperate fury, as we watch Rosetta — whose mother is a barely functioning alcoholic — fight to find the job that she needs to keep the two alive.

As tough as their situation is, though, Rosetta’s fierce sense of dignity refuses to allow her to accept any charity. A stranger to kindness and vulnerability, her abject desperation leads her to mistake these qualities for opportunities to exploit, leading her to make a gutting decision. But for all her apparent unlikeability, the movie (an early film from empathy endurance testers the Dardenne brothers) slots in slivers of startling vulnerability amongst the grimness so that we never lose sight of Rosetta’s ultimate blamelessness. Its profound emotional effect is corroborated by two things: that it won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and that it helped usher in a law protecting the rights of teenage employees in its setting of Belgium.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Anne Yernaux, Bernard Marbaix, Émilie Dequenne, Fabrizio Rongione, Frédéric Bodson, Mireille Bailly, Olivier Gourmet

Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

Rating: R

Our Children opens at the harrowing end of the true story it’s based on: with the image of a distraught mother (Émilie Dequenne) in a hospital bed, begging a police officer to ensure that her children — who have just predeceased her — are buried in Morocco. From this ominous beginning, the film rewinds into a jarringly sunny flashback of lovebirds Murielle (Dequenne) and Mounir (Tahar Rahim) to tell this horrifying story from the start.

What follows is much less obviously dramatic: Our Children shifts into slow-burn psychological thriller territory as we watch the gradual breaking down of Murielle at the hands of Mounir’s adoptive father André (Niels Arestrup), a wealthy white doctor who has used his status to insinuate himself into the lives of Mounir and his family back home in Morocco. This is a very subtle study of manipulation, one that hinges entirely on the performances of the trio, who fill with nuance roles that could easily have been tabloid caricatures. Above all, though, this is Dequenne’s film, and it’s the devastating ways she shows the life gradually being sucked out of Murielle that makes Our Children so difficult to shake off.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Baya Belal, Claire Bodson, Émilie Dequenne, Mounia Raoui, Niels Arestrup, Redouane Behache, Stéphane Bissot, Tahar Rahim

Director: Joachim Lafosse

Rating: NR

, 2022

Leo and Remi are close. They play, eat, and sleep together, and in between those moments, they share every thought they have with each other, no matter how big or small. Theirs is a precious friendship, as pure and as intimate as can be, but all that changes when they begin middle school. Subject to heteronormative norms and preteen mockery, their friendship starts to crack as Leo and Remi’s different definitions of manhood emerge.

Subtle but evocative, quiet but deeply powerful, Close takes a closer look at boyhood and male friendships—how they’re lived, defined, and seen. Plenty of questions go unanswered in this film, but if you’re comfortable with simply empathizing with the characters rather than knowing every answer, then Close comes highly recommended.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ahlaam Teghadouini, Eden Dambrine, Émilie Dequenne, Gustav De Waele, Hélène Theunissen, Igor van Dessel, Kevin Janssens, Léa Drucker, Serine Ayari

Director: Lukas Dhont

Rating: PG-13