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TIFF Review: The Unknown Girl

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the unknown girl

A young medical doctor attempts to discover the identity of a patient she turned away and later died.

Jenny Davin is a medical doctor who expects that same level of competency from her intern; at one point he freezes when a patient has a seizure which results in a reprimand that causes a rift between the two of them.  The breaking point occurs when the novice suggests admitting a late night visitor and his superior overrules him.  The next morning local police inspectors visit the medical practice and reveal that the young woman who was turned away had subsequently died from questionable injuries.  The guilt surrounding the death causes Davin to question her career ambitions and to search for the identity of the deceased.

Some familiar elements occur such as having to choose between taking over a small practice dealing with social assistant patients or becoming part of high profile medical team.  Threats are made but there is never a push for a woman in jeopardy atmosphere. The strained intern relationship seems somewhat forced though it enables the protagonist to do some soul searching in regards to her career choices.  These story elements which are common fodder in Hollywood movies for creating suspense and drama exist but are never really expanded upon as the every day existence rather than a heighten reality sets the overall tone.

A patient deep breathing for a medical examination serves as the opening scene.  It is an appropriate way to get things started as filmmaking siblings Luc Dardenne and Jean-Pierre Dardenne allow moments to unfold in front of the camera.  The story never fills rushed.  The personal investigation coincides with the protagonist carrying on with her medical practice which in turn has some surprising results when it comes to uncovering the truth surrounding the death. The overriding factor driving the proceedings is guilt not fear.  Adèle Haenel has the tough challenge of being in practically every shot; she is worthy of the role as her subtle mannerisms and facial reactions convey a lot more than if she was prone to emotional outbursts.

4-out-of-5

Check out all of our TIFF coverage.

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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