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Lorna isn’t very silent in Lorna’s Silence, though she may be by Hollywood standards. Kosovo actress Arta Dobroshi, who plays Lorna, is in nearly every scene, yet she’s often alone or having conversations that are terse if not tense. But when a person fraudulently marries to obtain citizenship, conspires to murder, and plans to wed another for money—all under the stewardship of mobsters—letting slip the tiniest detail or expressing any doubt can be grounds for shutting you up for good.
Similar in tone and spareness to the 2008 Romanian drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, this seventh feature from Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne drops the viewer into the middle of Lorna’s story. The young Albanian woman has already entered into a fake marriage to a junkie named Claudy (Jérémie Renier), whom she—or, more accurately, whoever she answers to—has promised money and a quickie divorce after she obtains documents identifying her as a Belgian citizen. Actually, though, the plan is to kill Claudy by overdose, a plan that’s complicated when the target begs Lorna to help him get clean. No worries, her contact (Fabrizio Rongione) tells her; addicts relapse all
Though the details are only hinted at, the scheme is in service of a bigger transaction, involving the aforementioned string-puller (referred to only as “the Russian”). Meanwhile, Lorna is in love with a petty criminal named Sokol (Alban Ukaj), with whom she plans to open a snack bar but otherwise sees rarely. Lots of money changes hands between these characters, often pulled from battered envelopes and locked drawers instead of wallets. Seems like a lot of trouble to go through to start a small business, but the snack shop is the only apparent reason Lorna got involved in these shady dealings to begin with.
Dobroshi’s face is gentle, often betraying no emotion, and her performance as a woman perpetually but secretly burdened is by far the highlight of the film. The Dardennes are also adroit at dangling the carrot, withholding just enough of the story’s particulars to keep you curious without testing your patience. But the too-convenient and rather weird open ending is a downright shark-jump—an unsatisfying conclusion to an intriguing puzzle that leaves you thinking a better title might have been Lorna’s Craziness.