Directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, starring Jérémie Renier and Déborah François.

Winner of the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2005, 'L'Enfant' finds Belgian filmmakers the Dardenne brothers once again exploring life at the bottom of the heap.

With her eight-day-old baby son, Sonia (François) arrives at the apartment of her boyfriend Bruno (Renier) to discover that he's sublet it for a few days and she has nowhere to stay. Tracking down Bruno, we discover that he's a petty thief who didn't bother to visit his girlfriend and son in hospital, such are the time demands on a two-bit hustler in a dead-end Belgian town.

Living by the minute, Bruno blows any money he gets from stolen goods but is offered a big payout if he and Sonia will sell their baby to a black market adoption agency.  Bruno declines the offer at first but then, on a whim and unbeknown to Sonia, agrees.

He brings his son to an empty apartment, leaves the baby in one room, waits in another and two minutes later goes back in to collect his money. But from such a heinous act will come the chance for Bruno to save his soul.

With their handheld shooting style, use of available light and natural sound, the Dardennes can often make you forget that you're not watching a documentary. And while too good looking for skid row, Renier and François' performances have the feel of real deal about them.

This is the type of film that, storywise, doesn't seem to have very much to it, but manages to say a lot. While Bruno's behaviour and selfishness is nauseating, the Dardennes manage to make you empathise with him, offering up the possibility as the film progresses that he's the child of the title.

The problem is that the film ends too quickly. Having built up the mess that Bruno's put himself in, the Dardennes rush the action, with finale too abrupt to connect in the way that other scenes in the film have.

But, for all its bleakness, 'L'Enfant' offers hope and you'll take away from it how much you have to be thankful for.

Harry Guerin