Le Gamin au Vélo/The Kid with a Bike (2011) - Dardenne
The Kid with a Bike opens 3/16 at Lincoln Plaza Cinema in NY. It will undoubtedly be ending up on my year end top 10 list for sure. Please go see it.
Just when I thought I comfortably settled in the world of the likes of Godard, Denis and Weerasethakul, the Belgian neo-realists the Dardenne Bros' The Kid with a Bike floors me and humbles me to appreciate the power of simple narrative once more.
Cyril (Thomas Doret) is an 11 year-old kid with a serious abandonment issue. After briefly running away from some sort of reform school to find his dad while adamantly denying the fact that his young dad abandoned him and sold his beloved bike for money, he has a run-in with Samantha, a hairdresser with a heart of gold (Cecil de France). She buys back his bike and agrees to be his foster parent on weekends. Cyril's not giving up finding his dad though and Samantha obliges to help him. But the young father working menial jobs, can't take care of him and doesn't want to see him. The result is devastating- Cyril scrapes his face and bangs his head against the car door repeatedly on the way back. Cyril is so desperate to find any kind of father figure, he falls in with the local 'dealer' who lures him in. One of many heartbreaking moments comes when the dealer plans a armed robbery of the local business using Cyril: When asked if 300 would be enough for him, Cyril answers, "I don't want any. I just want to do it for you."
With no acting experience beforehand, Doret is a revelation playing a physically violent, emotionally damaged kid. De France underplays her character and keeps her motivations hidden but she doesn't need to try hard. Her warmth pours out with a hint of her smile. You really get to feel for the kid. You really want the best for him.
Talk about quality, I bet every one of the Dardennes' films are exceptionally good. I've seen only two- La Promesse and Rosetta, both excellent. I shunned their films afterward thinking that every movie the Belgians are doing is pretty much the same. I moved away from the pleasures of watching a simple humanist (but never sentimental) drama. Not challenging enough, not edge enough, I kept telling myself. The Dardennes are undoubtedly the master at what they do. They hit the right note every time. Deeply moving and beautifully acted, The Kid with a Bike is undoubtedly one of the year's best. And I am saving some of their films at bay for those days when I get so worked up and angry at this ugly ugly world.