The tough compassion of Rosetta, which won the top prize this year at Cannes, is evident from the first frame: A young woman, as panicked and furious as an animal, is running away from someone in a building; we don’t know who or why or where, but we’re riveted by her ferocity. It’s 17-year-old Rosetta (guileless novice Emilie Dequenne, winner of Cannes’ Best Actress award), who lives in a trailer park with her alcoholic mother, and whose one raging goal is to get and hold a job so that she can escape the abyss she returns to each night. She’s a fervent supporter of capitalism who’s regularly discarded by the system. But she’d sooner lash out than accept an ounce of charity.
Made by Belgian-born brothers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, whose previous feature, ”La Promesse,” was equally perceptive about people surviving in the economic margins, ”Rosetta” stuns by closing in almost claustrophobically on the small, repetitive gestures of despair and determination. (The girl clings to normalcy through a sequence of daily rituals from the fetching of water to the changing of shoes.) Defying pity and demanding a chance, Rosetta is a character of raw pride in a film of lingering power.