A young lady doctor Jenny Davin (Adèle Haenel ) and another young man Julien (Olivier Bonnaud) both in doctors's robe, were jointly examining the huge puffy back of an old man (Andre Gotti) with stethocscope, giving the him directions to breathe at various intervals. The young Juilen gave his diagnosis. Dr. Davin asked Juilen to listen to another part of the man's back. He did so. She did the same. At the end, she told the young man that the patient had two symptoms of two respiratory and lung condition, not one. The young man didn't say anything. But it was obvious that he felt rebuffed. Then the examination was interrupted by a cry from the lady doctor's nurse that someone was dying. The lady doctor apologises to his patient that she had to attend to someone else first. he said it was OK. She rushed up the stairs and found an Arabian boy writhing. trembling and shaking involuntarily, in a cramp, frothing at the mouth. She pressed him down, held his head and ordered the sulking young man to bring her a pillow. The young man, then leaning against the wall just three feet away remained immobile. She had to do so herself. After the boy suffering from epilepsy was treated, she told him that to be a professional, one must control one's feelings at all times if one were not to make a wrong diagnosis. During her little lecture, someone sounded the doorbell to her clinic. She switched on the CCTV screen. She saw the image of a young black colored girl pressing the doorbell repeatedly, anxiety all over her face. She had never seen this girl before as a patient. She looked at the clock. It was already past 5.30 p.m., the closing hour of her clinic.The young man made as if he wanted to go down to open the door. She told him it was past the closing hour. Without another word, the young man took his bike and carried it towards the exit. She let him go. The young man did not turn up again the following day. She telephoned the young man and left a voice message apologizing for the harsh way she spoke to him and asked him to call her back. He never did.
The next scene shows the young doctor attending a party of fellow doctors in common practice, with everyone saying how proud they were to have her. But in the middle of the celebration, she got another urgent call. She had to excuse herself and go. Then, we see her visited by a police detective telling her that they found a colored girl dead at a construction site on the banks of River Meuse, with a head wound and bruised marks on her wrists (Ange-Déborah Goulehi ) and that they believed that before she died, she had been seen visiting her clinic. She was shown a photograph of the girl. She recognized it as the girl who sounded her doorbell. She told the police she was not one of her patients but she could have been one of the patients of the old doctor there who was on a pre-retirement leave Dr. Riga (Fabrizio Rongione) and that she was merely standing in as a substitute doctor during his absence for 3 months. She took a picture of the girl's photograph on her I-phone and told the police to let her know the outcome of their investigation because she felt that had she opened the door of her clinic, that girl would not have died and that she wanted to have the name of the girl so that she could do something for her family as a sort of post-mortem compensation.
As the film moves on, we see the young lady doctor visiting various of her patients at their homes, giving them all kinds of treatment like diabetes, respiratory problems, alcohol and drug problems,fevers, stomache- aches and cramps etc or receiving clients in her clinic, consisting mostly of old people, colored people, an illegal immigrant who sustained a wound on his leg whilst working (Kamil Alisultanov) who dared not see a proper doctor and got a serious infection on his thigh which would have cost him his leg if his friend(Timur Magomedgadzhiev) had not brought him to see her, a young man who went to her clinic with his girlfriend (Eva Zingaro) asking for a fake "sick leave certificate" who tried to beat her up when she refused (Yoann Zimmer) etc. In between doing so, we are shown how she started a personal investigation into the identity of the dead girl, showing her photograph to various people, including the construction workers (Morgan Marinne & Franck Laisné ) at the construction site where the dead girl was found, asking the black lady cashier of a cyber cafe equipped with three land line international telephone booths (Nadège Ouedraogo),and members of some of her patients including the Lambert family both father (Pierre Sumkay ) and son (Olivier Gourmet ), a young man called Bryan ( Louka Minnella) who complains of stomache cramps, his father (Jérémie Renier) who has a drug problem, his mother (Christelle Cornil) who has an alcohol problem. Bryan was friends with Lucas (Thomas Doret).
Bit by bit, the missing links began to fit into each other as we follow Dr. Davin's investigation. It turned out that both Bryan's father and Lucas' father had been visiting the dead girl, who was a young prostitute operating from the cyber cafe owned by her sister and her boyfriend and we learned how the young Lambert lent his caravan stationed in an illegal car park for use by the dead teenage girl and how each had his own guilty secret and how they dealt with it by lies and cover-ups and how it tortured them and how such mental pains would find a way of expressing itself in physical symptoms and how it would continue to torment them until and unless somehow they had confessed to it to another human being whom they feel confident enough to trust. In here personal investigation, she promised each one she interviewed that their secret would not be divulged to any other person because she had a professional duty not to do so. When the film ends, we see Bryan confessing to Dr. Davin how he could never get that girl out of his mind every night since she died and how he could never sleep a wink each night since and how it haunted him every minute of his day and how if he were to make a confession to the police that he tried to force the girl to do it another time, she fell and hit her head against a construction site equipment and started to bleed but out of fear of losing his wife and his job and his self-respect, he left her to bleed to death instead of calling for medical assistance. He told Dr. Davin to report it to the police after his confession because his telephone had run out of battery. Dr. Davin lent him her.
As the film drew to a close, we also learn how in fact Dr. Davin's personal investigation had interfered with the police's own investigation into the girl's death and how more than sex was involved but also drugs and how in order to keep Dr. Davin's personal quest off their leads, they gave her something she told them she wanted, the name of the girl. It was in fact the name assumed by the dead girl on an illegally obtained passport.We see how towards the end of the film, her sister made a confession to Dr. Davin and told her her sister's real African name and why when Dr. Davin first approached her at the cyber café, she denied knowing anything about her sister and asked her to ask the other customers playing computer games there. It was that she was jealous of her sister because her boyfriend with whom she was cohabiting found her more attractive than she was and she was glad that her sister was gone.
We learn too that through the dogged investigation by Dr. Davin, she tracked Julien down to a timber yard and he confessed to her that the reason he left had nothing to do with her harsh comments on him as a summer intern at her clinic but how it brought up painful memories he had as a child when his father beat him up until he rolled on the floor with cramps when he saw the epileptic child which his mentor treated on his first day at her clinic. She persuaded him not to give up on five years of study and return to her clinic and reminded him of how he told her when he first arrived how much he wanted to be able to help others. The film closed with a telephone call. Julien told Dr. Davin that after some serious reflection, he decided to follow her advice. She congratulated him and asked him when his exam would be.
It was a well-made film directed and co-written by Jean-PierreDardenee and Luc Dardenne, shot by Alian Marcoen, without exaggeration,without music, cool, calm, steady, with mostly medium shots with ocassional close ups on the eyes of the characters, almost like a documentary, but one without any narrator's voice. A great deal of the success of the film must go to Adèle Haenel, who would always stare into others' eyes when she was talking to them, always self-composed, controlled, and yet sympathetic. She deals with her own guilt the way she deals with her patients. She confronts it head-on, not by repressing or suppressing it, but by doing something about it, calmly, methododically and professionally, never allowing her own emotions to interfere with her judgment or her actions, the way she taught her young intern in the opening scene. Others may find the story not "dramatic" enough, maybe as being too plain, too matter of fact. If so, such people may have confused "dramatic" with "melodramatic". But for me, the real drama is not in the violence of the action. In fact, we were not even shown any picture of the state of the dead girl on the construction site, we did not even see her alive. The director did not have to rely on gory details. All we had was a photo of the dead girl and the brief blurry images of her making rapid stabs at the doorbell. The only violence we had was when we see the dead girl's sister's boyfriend and his buddy driving close to Dr. Davin's car, some harsh words delivered with a pair of angry eyes and his buddy taking out a crowbar to hit on the bonnet of her car to warn her to keep her nose out of it. No Hollywood style car screeching and turning in narrow streets, bumping ior crashing into things, and near collisions with other cars on the road, and finally bursting into flames amidst the sound of swishing and the loud explosion of bullets of even blodd streaming down sweaty bodies etc. No gritting of teeth. No bulging vein on the protagonists necks or arms etc. No nothing of the sort. The real drama is psychological. Maybe the real drama is the drama of the search of our identity, not just the name written on our passport or driver's licence or our academic certificates or diplomas, but that written in that most secret of places, our own psyche.The lady doctor's quest is her personal quest for redemption which incidentally triggered the redemption of all she touched with her own sincerity and humanity.