After refusing to answer a late-night knock on her clinic door, a doctor seeks to uncover the truth behind the mysterious death of her unidentified caller, in this social-realist procedural from Belgian auteurs Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.
With their 10th feature, celebrated Belgian auteurs and masters of realism Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne revisit the working-class milieu and themes of economic and social injustice that have come to define their work — but they also do something new. Playing with mystery and genre, The Unknown Girl might best be described as a social-realist film noir.
Dr. Jenny Davin, played by a quietly mesmerizing Adèle Haenel, runs a busy bare-bones medical clinic on the outskirts of Liege. Late one night, hours past closing time, Jenny ignores a buzz at the clinic’s door. The next morning she learns that this buzz came from a young woman in need of help, and that this unidentified caller is now dead. Weighed down by guilt and the thought of an unknown girl in an unmarked grave, Jenny applies her methodical, diagnostic mind to the case, making it her mission to find out who this woman was, and who, or what, was responsible for her death.
Working with cinematographer and long-time collaborator Alain Marcoen, the Dardennes unfold their story with the procedural rhythm and sense of urgency that we’ve come to expect from them, using subtle breaks from the main narrative to add nuance and texture. Watching Jenny visit with her patients and members of the community gives a human face to the story of the unknown girl.