“The First Responder”: I review a powerful new film about medicine–and confession

over at First Things:

“You can talk to me. I’m your doctor.”

Dr. Jenny Davin speaks this sentence, or some variant of it, several times in the course of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s The Unknown Girl. And people do talk. They talk to the young Dr. Davin even though she is not an especially skilled counselor. She mostly just tells people to do things, or asks whether they’ve done the things she told them to do last time. But people respond to her role—and, crucially, its promise of doctor-patient confidentiality—more than to her particular character or personality. And the Dardenne brothers, Belgian filmmakers who specialize in naturalistic dramas with a deep spiritual core, show us a world where guilty people are desperate for the freedom that comes from confession.

more–I wasn’t sure how I felt about this movie right after it finished (although I loved Adele Haenel as Dr Davin), but it has really stuck with me.


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