Jean Pierre and Luc Dardennes‘ Tori and Lokita is a watchable but moderately dull heart-and-compassion film about a typical Dardnennes subject — i.e., young underdog characters who are misunderstood by or at odds with mainstream Belgian society.
It’s a tragic immigration drama set near Liege, Belgium, about a pair of young, unrelated African kids (Pablo Schils as the younger Tori, Mbundu Joely as the teenaged Lokita) who get exploited and kicked around and treated cruelly by drug-dealing wolves. It ends sadly and shockingly. I didn’t melt down but I felt it. The Cannes snobs did cartwheels in the lobby, but it’s just moderately okay.
The Dardennes have always had this plain, unaffected directing style — just point, shoot and watch. Believable characters, realistic dialogue, no musical score. Straight-up realism, take or leave. I’ve always emerged from their films saying “yup, that was a good, honest film” but I’ve never really been knocked flat. Because their plain-and-straight signature only penetrates so far. In my case at least.
if you know the Dardennes and how their films tend to play, Tori and Lokita feels very familiar You can’t help feeling sorry for these kids, but desperate immigrants have been getting kicked around and exploited for centuries, haven’t they? Life can be heartless for have-nots.
Tori and Lokita had its big debut in Cannes ten months ago. It opened in Europe last fall, and was available on Bluray & streaming late last October. Sideshow and Janus Film will give it a limited opening stateside on 3.24.23.