Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Kid With the Bike

There's a preternatural loveliness (one without a hint of precociousness or mugging) to Thomas Doret's performance as the titular Kid in the Dardenne Bros. latest slice of life drama The Kid With the Bike.  Winner of the Grand Jury Prize (second place) at last years Cannes Film Festival, here's an empathetic, insightful and artful piece of vanity-free storytelling told simply, but serenely, clear-eyed and emotional-- one free of hokey sentimentality or preachy life lessons.  The Dardenne Bros. (Jean Pierre and Luc for proper acknowledgement) films simply are, and that's the joy of them.  Doret plays 12-year-old Cyril, a rightfully angry and hostile young man abandoned from his father, a lout terrifically, if enigmatically played by Jeremie Renier, and hanging on just barely with the help of his new caretaker Samantha (played by Hereafter's Cecile De France.)  There's such graceful strides of realism, marked without judgement and an almost too-rarefied humanity that The Kid With a Bike, a realm that has marked so many of the Dardenne's prior films, but there's also an even rarer sense of hope to this boys struggle that marks the film a quiet winner.

As his father as pushed him even further away (apparently taking his bike with him to boot), Cyril becomes increasingly more unmanageable and discordant.  A meeting with a bad seed, almost paternal neighborhood boy simply known as "The Dealer" sets up a destructive future for Cyril, as does a random act of violence, and another act of revenge chart Cyril's short-lived course from kid to unwaveringly grown.  But under the Dardenne's guidance, Doret comes across so achingly vivid and so refreshingly boyish, which makes his plight all the more heartbreaking.  The hope springs-- the Dardenne's have claimed The Kid With a Bike was inspired by fairy tales-- as the bond between Cyril and Samantha becomes markedly stronger.  Flashes of an operatic soundtrack (a first for the usual music-less filmmakers) and glimpses of summery splendor add to a story that way to easily could be seen as gloomy.  The most special thing about this very special film is the casual, day in the life moments, as perceived from simply the kid with the bike.  B+

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