While I was watching Moscow, Belgium, I couldn’t help thinking that this was the movie Last Chance Harvey wishes it was. It’s a romantic comedy for the middle aged, and it comes with all the baggage that two divorced people can bring to a relationship. Matty (Barbara Serafian) is a mother of three whose art teacher husband has run off with a 22-year-old student. Johnny (Jurgen Delnaet) is a truck driver with a dark past, whose wife left him for a sleazy divorce lawyer who took him for everything but his truck.
It’s a slow build at first, but the movie creates a very believable relationship between the pair, who are drawn together as much by the recognition of each others’ pain it seems, as physical chemistry.
The performances in the film are all very good, especially Barbara Serafian, who is able to embody several contradictions at once (she loves Johnny, she hates Johnny, she knows what she wants, she’s completely baffled by life) and Anemone Valcke as Matty’s teen daughter, who must at times be the adult in the room. This movie is Valcke’s first screen performance (at least to make the IMDb), and she’s a natural. Definitely an actor to watch.
I at first thought that Moscow, Belgium wasn’t for me, but for the middle-aged audience that no one makes movies for any more. But, like the zany romantic Johnny, it eventually won me over. It’s a well-observed love story, and the obstacles between the characters are all very real and very believable. The filmmakers wisely limit their locations and let the talented actors slug it out in long and satisfying dramatic scenes. I recommend it.
The DVD features a nice transfer of the film, the American and Belgian trailer (surprisingly similar), audio commentary from the director and the producer, and a Cannes Featurette, which is a fun recap of all the madness the filmmakers endured at Cannes in 2008, where Moscow, Belgium was a big hit. If you were going to Cannes with a movie, this piece would be worth watching ahead of time to see what to expect. It’s also nice to see the cast and crew of this little Belgian film getting big love from the jaded audiences of Cannes.
One last note, the North American distribution company, NeoClassics Films, Ltd. looks like they’ve done a great job with the key art and other marketing materials. They are a relatively new company (founded 2007) and I like their bent, which is a mixture of slick commercial and indie. Another one to watch.