The Dardenne Brother's latest film, The Unknown Girl, is another quietly poignant study of humanity and internal conflict, a film that unravels with mystery and intrigue, detailing the exploits of Dr. Jenny Davin, a professional who prides herself on her efficiency. Having recently been chosen to join the prestigious Kennedy Hospital, Dr. Jenny Davin is finishing up her last remaining weeks at her local practice when her service bell rings after-hours. Opting not to open the door, since it doesn't appear to be an emergency, Dr. Jenny Davin is shocked to learn the next morning that there was a death, a possible murder, directly across the street from her practice the night before, with the victim, a teenage girl, being the person responsible for the service bell the night prior. Confronted with her own morality and the guilt associated with not answering the door, Dr. Jenny Davin becomes increasingly obsessed with learning the teenager's identity, an obsession which inevitably threatens not only Dr. Davin's future at the hospital, but also her relationship with patients who might know something about this unknown teenage girl. While some may consider a lesser work from the Dardennes, The Unknown Girl still has a lot to offer, being another engaging, humanistic story delivered in the filmmaker's patented naturalistic style. While not packing the same poignancy as more acclaimed efforts, The Unknown Girl still manages to tap into some universal humanistic truths, detailing the effects guilt and bad decisions can have on the psyche of an individual. Throughout the narrative of The Unknown Girl, Dr. Jenny Davin's world is presented as one in which she is among the fringe or social outcasts of society, with many of her patients being immigrants and sporadic Samaritans, individuals who simply don't adhere to the "norms' or 'standards' one associates with French society. Much of these characters are individuals who struggle, whether it be financially, physically, or spiritually, and much like Dr. Davin, they all seem to be haunted by something from their past, whether it be guilt associated with a decision they made or simply an existential crisis of faith in their actions. While Dr. Davin's story arch sees her get to the bottom of the mystery behind the teenage girl's death and identity, it becomes apparent that The Unknown Girl's story isn't so much about the destination but the journey itself to get there, being a moralistic tale about the weight and psychological impact of guilt, but also the importance and necessity related to fixing what was wrong and making it right. Whether it be Dr. Davin's lab assistant Julien, who is experiencing an existential crisis about his profession, or the victim's sister, who towards the end confesses that her own jealousy leaves her somewhat responsible for her sister's death, the Dardenne's The Unknown Girl is an ode to the need for more empathy, a mature film that recognizes that flaws and mistakes are what makes us human, exhibiting how it's never too late to do the right thing or get on the right path. Dr. Jenny Davin begins to realize her future may be remaining at the local practice instead of going to the hospital, with The Unknown Girl exhibiting a character who internally struggles but eventually reaches a place of comfort in the end, overcoming her guilt and perceived low-morality through introspection and determination. The Dardenne Brother's The Unknown Girl may not pack the same poignancy as some of their other efforts but the film does manage a haunting tale of guilt, intrigue, and empathy, delivering a pensive study of the psychological trauma which guilt can have on the individual while also reminding us as individuals that it's never too late to attempt to make things right.
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