The Carriers Are Waiting | Chicago Reader

The Carriers Are Waiting

Documentarian Benoit Mariage's first fiction feature is an extraordinarily subtle, witty, and nuanced work, its editing light, free-form, and wholly nonjudgmental. It chronicles—in black, white, and a lot of gray—the last months of the 20th century as lived by a family of four in the Walloon region of Belgium. Dominating the film is Roger (Benoit Poelvoorde), an irascible paterfamilias who gives new meaning to the phrase “acting out” as he frantically brainstorms to keep his family's head above water. Learning that a local business is offering a four-door sedan to anyone who can set a new world record—any record—he determines that his heir, a great placid slug of a son, is destined to become the new world door-opening champion. To this end he hires a trainer, builds a freestanding door frame in the middle of his backyard, and nearly works the kid to death with a torturous entering-and-exiting regimen as grueling as it is absurd. Roger's stunning lack of sensitivity in family matters is not unrelated to his work as a newspaper stringer—he unapologetically asks a shell-shocked deliveryman who's just run over a teenager to hold up his victim's driver's license so he can get them both in the shot, then sends his eight-year-old daughter to pick up one of the loaves of bread the collision has spilled onto the street (“no, not that one—a baguette”). But despite his dubious child-raising practices, Roger is no monster. For his daughter, riding through the night on the back of her father's motorcycle with her arms around him, these police-blotter excursions are a magic time of closeness, of wordless communion. 94 min.

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