As someone who knew basically nothing about Belgium—hell, as someone with virtually no intellectual curiosity about Belgium—here is what I've learned about the country by watching Moscow, Belgium. Great stretches of Belgium are as ugly as the United States, with giant apartment towers and highway overpasses. Many lower-middle-class Belgians live quiet lives making bad decisions, the same as many of us. And many of those bad decisions have to do with the messy business of falling in love.
Matty (Barbara Sarafian, weary and strong) is a mother of three whose husband, currently enthralled by a midlife crisis, is taking a younger woman out for a relationship test drive. As she waits patiently for her husband to decide whether he wants to come back to her or not, Matty accidentally backs her car into (or is struck by) a truck driven by a young man named Johnny (Jurgen Delnaet, subtle and sublime). At first the pair lock horns, but soon they're out on a date and fumbling together in the cab of Johnny's truck.
Matty and Johnny are not the sort of people you expect to see in a foreign film. They're positively blue-collar, delightfully so. Matty cooks serviceable food for her kids and works in a boring postal job. Johnny has a tawdry past, lives with his mom, and dreams of moving to Italy. He can't help but embarrass himself repeatedly, and you can tell that he imagines himself as some sort of John Cusack figure in a romantic comedy, but the truth is that he's something much more small and needy and fragile. The viewer might not agree with the choices Johnny and Matty make as they careen off each other's delicate emotional states, but the choices feel real. These characters are recognizable, and loveable, in a way that American films never can capture.