Ken as the released hot-headed, jealous ex-lover with a violent streak pretty much writes his own drama. In his inability to find work he occupies his time by obsessing over Sylvie in a fruitless attempt to patch things up. Sylvie has done more than gone straight, she found solace and stability in Dave, and they’re expecting a baby. Sylvie, despite the morning sicknesses, has a night job as a waitress in a local Belgian nightclub, and Dave works as a car cleaning attendant. They’re making a life for themselves, whereas the return of Ken, his attachment to his criminal past and his violent rhetoric is grinding away at their lives.
This love triangle that occupies much of the film’s first half does less to build tension, which is more predictable than it is exciting than it does to make it a frustrating experience. It’s a narrative construct many viewers will be familiar with. Moreover, there’s little visual flare or bold dialogue to elevate such banality.
First-time director/writer Robin Pront does show some promise, though. Pront casts very little judgement on his characters, painting them victims of circumstance or naturally damaged. Ken finally earns his first shift at the same car cleaning company as Dave’s: an altercation between Ken and some local thugs doesn’t paint Ken as a villain nor as a hero. Instead, Pront views him as a man with a violent temperament in a violent situation – tackling fire with fire if you will.
Midway through act two Pront’s promise comes to fruition. Ken’s jealousy rises to an outburst of irrevocable proportions, and the film’s tone shifts. It’s clear the first half’s narrative serves as a motivation for the events unfolding hereafter, and Pront produces some dark, surrealist moments. Ostriches, drag acts, and conspiracy theories abound; a stark contrast to the calmly predictable first half.
This Belgian drama is a film of two halves. The first half must be endured and to be viewed as a function to set up the dynamics of the three primary characters. This is aided by the terrific performances, notably by Percevals. Dave’s character arc is complex and often contradictory, which makes for compelling viewing. When Ken’s embittered jealousy manifests the film then becomes a tense crime thriller. Maybe worth the wait for patient viewers, but for many others it may prove too little, too late.