La Promesse, as the title suggests, is about the effort of keeping a promise, though it isn’t quite as simple as all that. At the age of fifteen, Igor has left school, works as an apprentice at a service station, and assists his father, Roger (Olivier Gourmet), in running an illegal immigrant smuggling, housing, and construction racket. They bring them back to a block of flats they live in and start charging them for money. One of the immigrants is Assita who has come to Belgium with her husband Amidou to find a better future for them and their baby. One day when immigrant-inspectors pay a visit, events start to have strange consequences. Igor leaves the service station in order to outrun the authorities and send the workers away. In his haste, Amidou is critically injured when he falls from the arena, and, in his final words to Igor, asks the young man to look after his wife and child. Fearing prosecution, Roger ignores Igor’s pleas to take Amidou to the hospital for proper medical attention and instead, covers his body with canvas and leaves him to die. An important point of the film is the relationship between Igor and his father. The starting of the film presents a relationship between a father and his son that we could describe as complicity. At this moment, the film becomes tinged with tenderness. But throughout this film, this complicity gradually turns into an open opposition and the consequences of Igor’s promise open his eyes on his father’s cruelty.
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne create a scathing, poignant, and troubling portrait of maturity, accountability, and sense of duty in La Promesse. Set in Liege, which is situated in Wallonia, a French-speaking portion of Belgium (where the Dardennes live), La Promesse is a study of native hustlers who exploit illegal West African immigrants, paying them little for hard labor. The sound scape is something that one should pay attention to. There’s no musical score at all only the voices the characters hear, the voices of an industrial town – ambiance. In the end the industrial voices just keep going on as the credits come on the screen.