This stylish and original debut feature from Van Dormael (ex-circus clown - true fact!) has already scooped up numerous awards, including the Charles Chaplin at Edinburgh and Cannes' Camera D'or. No wonder. There's something very different about this film. Razor-sharp editing, intelligent plotting and sensitive acting all combine to make Toto an absorbing and (mostly) refreshing unsentimental one-and-a-half hours viewing.
"Alfred. You stole my life," intones the sombre voice-over of Thomas (Bouquet), alias Toto the hero, in the opening sequence as we watch the rescue of two squalling babes (Thomas and Alfred) from a hospital inferno. Or was it Alfred and Thomas? Thomas has always sworn his mum picked up the wrong brat and that the life of the spoilt, rich and, frankly, fat Alfred should be his. We follow their parallel yet unequal lives, switching from childhood to adulthood to present day agedness with startling adroitness. Past and present, cause and effect are deftly intercut and it is this which gives Toto its unique feel - as well as the curious violence of the boy Thomas (Thomas Godet) and his frightening young madam of a sister.
Despite undue sappiness around middle-age (that's what lurve with the gorgeous Mireille Perrier does for you, chaps), our Thomas manages to hold it together through all tragedies (quite numerous) until the film's acid ending-with-a-twist brings his nightmare and our viewing pleasure to a well-judged end. Dead good.