A week ago I conveyed a certain muted respect for Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne‘s Young Ahmed. I described it fairly and accurately an “an 84-minute waiting-game movie about a young Islamic psychopath and would-be Jihadist (Idir Ben Addi) planning to murder his female teacher out of blind adherence to Islamic derangement syndrome.”
Everyone understands that in a European or U.S.-made drama (or comedy even) there’s only one reason to introduce a character with strong Islamic beliefs — i.e., to start the clock ticking on whether or not this character will commit some act of ghastly terror.
This is exactly what the Dardennes have done with Young Ahmed, which should probably be re-titled Young Islamic Asshole and subtitled Just For Laughs, How About Killing Yourself Without Taking Any Innocent Victims With You?Which is why it’s a “waiting game” film because all you can think about is “who is this kid going to kill, and will somebody kill him before he strikes?”
Except Young Ahmed ends rather profoundly. The last couple of minutes are so good, in fact, that I wound up forgiving the first 80 or so.
How good is Ahmed on a Dardennes scale? I would give it a 7.5. It’s certainly better than their last one, The Unknown Girl, which I called C.S.I: Liege. I would call Ahmed a “good but calm down”-er. Dialogue, dialogue. MCU interiors, MCU interiors. It certainly warrants respect but minus any post-screening cartwheels.
Except Jordan Ruimy‘s Cannes-whisperer is now confiding that The Young Ahmed was thisclose to winning the Palme d’Or. Then Bong Joon–ho‘s Parasite came along and the Alejandro G. Inarritu-led jury was so impressed that they decided to split the difference, giving the Palme to Parasite and the Best Director prize to the Dardennes brothers.