Friday, 5 October 2012

filmbore pick of the week - The Kid With A Bike

The Kid With A Bike

Directors: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Screenplay: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Starring: Thomas Doret, Cécile De France, Jérémie Renier
Year: 2011
Language: French
UK rental release: July 2012

Rotten Tomatoes

The Dardenne brothers are a big name in french cinema, thanks to their earthy and reliable output of well written and beautifully directed pieces. Since their foray into major movies they have always been involved in the available prizes at the annual Cannes Film Festival, and have won more awards there than most. Again, they have succeeded in producing yet another successful picture with this, the winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes last year, The Kid With A Bike.

Cyril (fantastic newcomer Thomas Doret) is an 11 year old boy who has been abandoned by his father to a nearby children's home. He has the look of innocence but is brimming with defiance and boldness, driven but his continued determination in the hunt for the whereabouts of his dad. But that's not all, as he also feels the segregation more physically due to his missing bicycle - a gift from his father, Guy (Jérémie Renier, L'enfant, Brotherhood Of The Wolf). one of his escape attempts, he has  a brief encounter with Samantha (Cécile De France, Switchblade Romance, Mesrine: Parts 1 & 2), the owner of a hair salon around his home estate. She manages to track down his bike from a neighbour and in taking it back to the boy it sparks an unexpected connection. Cyril is clearly a happier soul when back on his bike - it's an extension of comfort for him, like a security blanket. This two-wheeled contraption creates a bridge between them, beckoning the beginning of a new relationship as she agrees to foster him on weekends.

Not only does this give Cyril a better quality of home life, but also presents him with an opportunity to persevere with the search for his father, and Samantha wants to help him in his quest. It's clear from some of the outcome that she has a bigger responsibility for Cyril than she accounted for, and cares for him more and more, despite his unruliness. The boy's rebellious side swells as his life unfolds, during which he meets an older lad, Wes, from a local gang who sees an affinity with him through joint experiences from the children's home. 

But with Wes' reputation as a reprobate clouding his true intentions, Cyril can't help but be embroiled into the cool life of his new friend. Nevertheless, all of his actions and decisions, whether good or bad, come from a desire to regain his kinship with his father...some actions of which could get him into deeper trouble than he realises.

The first shot of this film epitomises the quality of a Dardenne picture. Naturally lit, and patiently shot with tones of realism. You wait diligently for the drama to unravel itself, for which you are inevitably rewarded. What's smart about the overall piece though is the choice to shoot almost the entire story from the height of Cyril himself. In doing this, you feel every moment from the boy's visual perspective. Also, the interior scenes are closely shot, adding a claustrophobic ingredient to the mix, increasing your understanding of the boy's desire to escape from both the housing he finds himself in and the agitation he builds in himself while trying to comprehend his family situation.

This design only helps to amplify what the bike to the kid represents. Not only is it his chariot to evolving his own being and discovering the truths he so passionately seeks, but it is the link to all of the key engagements that he becomes involved in: while looking for his dad and the bike he meets Samantha; her finding it again brings them together; a boy who steals it brings him to the attention of Wes. Even as an escape vehicle in times of trouble, it's his transition between poignant moments while he can settle in a realm of serenity preparing for what lies ahead. It's a platform into events that if alone his defiant side may never have broached.

None of this would be believable though if not for a good cast. As expected, Renier is subtly moving and direct, while De France does what she always does best and absorbs herself into the part with natural charm and assimilated acting brilliance. However, her performance doesn't deter the excellent turn from Thomas Doret. The Dardenne's have found a great new star in this young boy. Any other child may have been either too sickly or too arrogant in trying to imbue the right quality to the role of Cyril, but Doret is an absolute natural. You feel his pain and courage instantly, and the assured method in his doggedness to get back his father is incredibly endearing. Also, there is great chemistry between the young lad and De France, which is where the tale's true heart starts to shine. Their execution on screen pushes through the obstacles that the story dishes out, and it shows what a great pairing you can get from an experienced film star and a beginner with unbleached flare.
If you haven't seen any of the Dardenne brother's films before, this is a great introduction to their work. It's no surprise here that they have created yet another solid french drama, as expected when comparing it to their ever growing catalogue of high quality films. They are a stamp of approval...when you see their name on the cover, you know what you are going to get. But, they are still able to produce exquisite pieces time and time again, and I wouldn't be surprised if they turn up to the next Cannes Film Festival and leave with a gong or two under the arms.

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