“I’m a gangster,” says Gino (Matthias Schoenaerts) to his new girlfriend, race car driver Bibi (Adèle Exarchopoulos), when she asks for his deepest secret. She thinks he’s kidding, but he’s not, and director Michaël R. Roskam (Bullhead) spends the next two hours weaving in and out of this complicated romance. A lot of stuff happens in that time—a botched heist, a pregnancy, a shady businessman trying to manipulate Bibi’s love for Gino, a prison escape—and the movie starts to feel like mini-series packed into feature length. Everything revolves around believing that Gino and Bibi are unbreakably devoted to one another—which makes the original title Le Fidèle make a lot more sense than the prosaic nonsense English-speaking audiences are stuck with—and the two lead actors do a fine job of capturing that connection through the rises and falls of their relationship. Schoenaerts in particular gets a great showcase for his mix of brute physicality and haunted emotionalism; when Roskam gives the narrative enough time to slow down, we get a compelling story of a man clinging to the one beautiful thing he’s ever had in his life.
Director: Michaël Roskam
Producer: Pierre-Ange Le Pogam and Bart Langendonck
Cast: Matthias Schoenaerts, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Eric de Staercke, Jean-Benoît Ugeux, Nabil Missoumi, Thomas Coumans, Nathalie Van Tongelen, Kerem Can and Sam Louwyck