by Jessica Moll & r & & r & L'Enfant (The Child) & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & t takes a while to figure out what's so weird about this movie. It's more than the usual strangeness of French films, the irresistible throaty sounds of the language and those slow, beautiful scenes where nothing really happens.

And it isn't just that the main character, a compulsive thief named Bruno (J & eacute;r & eacute;mie Renier), is such a schmuck he sells his 9-day-old baby on the black market and, by way of apology, tells his girlfriend, Sonia, "I thought we could have another." The number of scenes in which Bruno kills time stomping in mud puddles and cracking fart jokes makes you wonder who's really the "child" of the film's title.

It's a mystery why Sonia (D & eacute;borah Francois) sticks with Bruno for as long as she does. He does shower her with sporadic generosity, impulsively buying her a leather jacket to match his own and a baby carriage that becomes one of the film's symbols. He takes her for a joy ride in a rented convertible, and they share an ebullient, rough affection that makes them seem more like playful siblings than young parents.

What's less believable is the baby's muteness throughout the entire ordeal. What's missing?

And then it hits you: the lack of any music. The entire film -- which won the at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival -- is devoid of a score. The eerie absence of music calls attention to the grittiness of the ambient sounds: the traffic, sirens and voices of a dirty, inhospitable city. And above these noises, there's the constant refrain of a name being called. In the early scenes, it's Sonia's repeated call for "Bruno!" as she searches the city for her baby's father. But later, the roles are reversed, and the chant becomes Bruno's pleading cry for "Sonia!" as he spirals deeper into crime and despair and finally begs for a real forgiveness, literally prostrating himself at Sonia's feet.

It's weird to watch a movie without any music to guide your feelings. But the resulting void so convincingly conveys Bruno's emotional barrenness that his ultimate redemption, which otherwise would seem contrived and predictable, becomes instead a welcome, cathartic relief. (Rated R)

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