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The strongest movie to come out of Belgium in quite some time effortlessly draws you into a touching, near-documentary tale about playground bullying.

A couple of weeks ago Belgium selected Playground - titled Un Monde in its original French language - as the country's official entry for the current Oscar race. And while I'd be surprised if the small-scale, nuanced picture will stand out enough amid the competition to get an actual nomination, there's no denying it's the strongest movie Belgium has selected in quite some time.

Young director Laura Wandel does a marvellous job highlighting the pain, confusion and heartbreak involved in playground bullying, helped by the strong performances she coaxes out of the two kids playing a brother and sister who get picked upon and struggle to make friends at school.

Filmed in a documentary style at child's height Playground efficiently draws you into the film and makes you care immensely for its young protagonists, even if some of the drama is underplayed, while other parts feel rather rushed.

Still, for a debut picture Playground is surprisingly confident and laudably clear about what it wants to achieve. I'd heartily recommend it to everyone.

release: 2021

director: Laura Wandel

starring: Maya Vanderbeque, Güter Duret, Elsa Laforge, Lena Girard Voss


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