TIFF 2016 Review: “The Unknown Girl” (2016) ★★★★★


It’s no secret that our society has some serious issues we are unable to solve as a single individual. Some people lose their job, some others fail to make mortgage payments for obvious reasons, but the only thing that concerns the bank is money. Someone else does not wish to open the door to a customer or client when a door is knocked after working hours. You may say that should not hurt anyone if somebody wishes to go home on time. But what if it does? Feeling regret afterwards would not make any sense, and moreover, would not help to bring a human’s life back, because what is done can’t never be undone. And when life is gone – it’s gone forever.

Dr. Davin (Adèle Haenel) is a hardworking doctor who cares about her patients. She even visits them at home to ensure they get enough care and help from medical institution. One day, when she has already worked extra hours, she doesn’t allow her intern, Julien, to open the door when someone knocked it only once, saying that nobody knocks the door just once if it’s urgent matter. However, the morning visit of Inspector Mahmoud makes her regret about her last night’s decision, but at that moment, there’s nothing she could have done as the young girl from last night, who had knocked her door only once, was found dead early morning near a construction site.

Since the victim had no ID with her or a phone number with her, the authority wants to bury her with no name. But as it usually happens, any unknown victim is known to someone else, it’s just a matter of effort to be put by the police officers. Even though that had never been the case in THE UNKNOWN GIRL, the feeling of guilt makes Dr. Jenny Davin to begin her own investigation to find out the name of the victim, and for that she starts with the people she communicates most often – her patients.

THE UNKNOWN GIRL written and directed by the Dardenne Brothers, Luc and Jean-Pierre is a powerful drama that, once again brings us the life of ordinary people, life-changing mistakes they made, naturalistic scenes and the dreadful consequences of what we don’t do when we had to. Adele Haenel as Jenny Davin is believable, as she allows herself to stay in the character long enough to capture a feeling of sorrow her character has due to her choice. Even though Jenny tries to redeem herself by identifying the real name of the victim to give her a proper burial, that still does not justify the moment of hesitation she had that lead to the death of a 17-year-old girl.

In conclusion, there are many things we could learn from Jenny’s fault. Firstly, it is always good to look around to see if there is anyone in need of help. Secondly, never ignore someone unknown who knocks at your door, even if you don’t wish to open it. But those little, seemingly not so important actions could have salvaged a life, which is, I hope you’ll agree, is priceless.

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