The Dardenne Brothers’ latest drama is the tense, unnerving story of a religiously obsessive teen who’s increasingly drawn toward violent radicalism by an older role model.
Revered Belgian filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne took home the Best Director prize at Cannes for this searing drama, which follows a Muslim teenager as he’s led down a dangerous path into religious fanaticism. Ahmed (Idir Ben Addi) lives in a small town with his siblings and single mother (Claire Bodson), who’s disturbed by her son’s increasingly extremist views but unable to sway him. Ahmed has recently fallen under the influence of a local imam (Othmane Moumen), who encourages the boy to idolize jihadists and adopt stringently conservative attitudes toward the women in his life. A frequent source of the imam’s ire is Inès (Myriem Akheddiou), Ahmed’s progressive, devoted teacher. The influences of these two authority figures eventually converge in disturbing fashion, and the fallout affords Ahmed an opportunity to change before it’s too late. But, as the film vividly portrays, the psychological hold of religious zealotry is difficult to shake, especially for an impressionable teenager looking to find his place in the world. Working in their trademark realist style, the Dardennes have crafted another probing, humane character study with Young Ahmed. Though working with the potentially incendiary topic of religious extremism, the duo tackles this delicate subject matter with characteristic sensitivity and nuance.
CAST: IDIR BEN ADDI, MYRIEM AKHEDDIOU, OLIVIER BONNAUD, CLAIRE BODSON
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