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Moscow, Belgium 

Wednesday, Feb 25 2009
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We're not talking Dardennes here, but fellow Belgian Christophe Van Rompaey gives this light May-to-December pair-up an agreeably mussed, pedestrian milieu. Rather than an exquisitely frumpified rom-com creation, Matty (Barbara Sarafian), 41, is a middle-class Ghent mother of three pretending to be shrewish while her experimentally estranged hubby dithers. (Her neighborhood's "Moscow" moniker is just title bait.) A fender-bender triggers a persistent suitor in lanky, rangy trucker Johnny (Jurgen Delnaet), and their one-night stand leads, a few requisite demurrals later, to a home-cooked dinner with her and the kids (menu: blood sausage and stewed apples). But out of emotional routine, Matty still humors the indecision of her weak-willed art-teacher husband, who's like a sitcom neighbor with an excuse to drop by. The clichés are firmly in place, no question: Johnny is Mr. Fix-It, drawing out her shy son with comic-book references, and the romantic volleying chugs along until it's suddenly time not to. Yet Sarafian's maternally weary manner suits the low-key tone perfectly (and the accordion score is admirably unrepentant). Though it backs away from Johnny's adventuresomely not-funny past (courtesy of his rival asking, sigh, "a friend at the police station"), Moscow, Belgium leaves you feeling less offended and dirty-feeling than the evidence suggests.

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Nicolas Rapold

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