Review: Offline (2012)

Offline (2012)

Directed by: Peter Monsaert | 110 minutes | drama | Actors: Wim Willaert, Anemone Valcke, Katelijne Damen, Robrecht Vanden Thoren, Mourade Zeguendi, Liesa Naert, Patricia Groemaere, Dominique van Malder, Margriet Bruggeman, Lukas Smolders, Souad Boukhatem, Peter Gorissen

After seven years in prison, Rudy from Ghent is finally released. Now that he has paid his fine to the company, he has clearly set his goals. Not only does he want to go back to his old job – he was a washing machine repairman – he also wants, more importantly, to be reunited with his family. Rudy gets help from his friend Rachid and the retired hairdresser Denise. He soon realizes that getting a job is not easy and that his ex-wife fends off all contact attempts. The only one that makes Rudy a bit happy again is the girl he chats with via a website.

‘Offline’ is the Flemish feature debut by director/screenwriter Peter Monsaert. And what a debut. ‘Offline’ will probably haunt you for a while afterwards. The movie starts off pretty quietly. It is not clear to the viewer what exactly is going on. But Monsaert draws you more and more into the film as the story progresses: the plot slowly unravels. Rudy’s past slowly emerges and you as a viewer become conflicted. You’ve already started to feel sympathy for him at that point and don’t understand why his family is turning away from him so much. But then the horrific secret comes out and you are forced to look at Rudy differently. Or not? Monsaert has turned his protagonist into a real person, who happened to have done something terrible. The question that constantly occupies the viewer is: does Rudy have to pay for that for the rest of his life? This issue of conscience takes ‘Offline’ to the next level.

Monsaert literally stays close to the characters with the camera. That choice is very fitting for the story. You get more involved in the emotional situation the characters find themselves in. The role of Rudy is played by Wim Willaert who creates a layered character. Rudy is lonely and longs for his family, but has not been in prison for nothing. Communicating is not his forte and he reacts impulsively. Because of this, he is occasionally a blunt jerk who hurts people unnecessarily. Praise also goes to Anemone Valcke who (without giving too much away) plays an important and intense role as the young Vicky. In her scenes with Willaert, she is at her best by being very vulnerable. The rest of the cast can’t be faulted either.

The music of ‘Offline’ is made by the Belgian band Triggerfinger, who scored a huge hit in the Netherlands in 2012 with their cover of Lykke Li’s “I Follow Rivers”. Triggerfinger is originally a solid rock band that also makes beautiful subdued music. That combination fits the film perfectly. The music certainly adds to the atmosphere of the film. Triggerfinger translates Rudy’s frustrated and lonely character well into rock music and instrumental quiet songs. Artistically and commercially, the collaboration with Triggerfinger is a good move by the director. A popular band like Triggerfinger will surely provide extra publicity.

‘Offline’ is a film about man’s conscience, penance and the inability to communicate. The appropriate music of Triggerfinger and the lifelike characters will not let you go. ‘Offline’ is a beautiful film by our southern neighbors.

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