This new movie from the Belgian filmmaker Bas Devos opens with a static shot of an apartment’s living room and its window. No one is there. The shot holds as the room goes from fully lit to completely dark. “I see the time that has gone by,” a woman says in voice-over. “How would a stranger feel here?”
The woman is Khadija (Saadia Bentaïeb), a middle-aged Maghrebi immigrant living and working in Brussels. She’s part of a corporate cleaning crew, on the night shift. We see her operating machinery in a building lobby and laughing with co-workers over coffee in a conference room. On the metro home, she oversleeps and is stranded at the end of the line.
This movie — the story of how she returns home — beguiles and fascinates on several levels. Devos and the cinematographer Grimm Vandekerckhove, working in 16-millimeter, capture the sleeping outer portions of Brussels with visionary skill. The focus is often skewed so that streetlights and traffic lights grow and dance before the viewer’s eyes. (Some sequences are reminiscent of the underseen 2007 feature “Quiet City,” an overnight pastoral of normally noisy Brooklyn from the American director Aaron Katz.)
There’s more than an inspired impressionism at work here. Khadija encounters a homeless man and his dog. She gets help from a young woman running a gas station convenience store. These exchanges, and others, contain resonant observations of life as it’s lived by people who are, to varying degrees, disenfranchised — like immigrants and single moms. “Everybody needs a place to rest,” Bruce Springsteen sings in one of his 1980s hits. This movie is a strong depiction of people who’ve richly earned such a place.
Not rated. In Dutch and French, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 25 minutes. Watch through virtual cinemas.