Saturday, April 21, 2012

LE GAMIN AU VELO (THE KID WITH A BIKE) (2011)

Written & Directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne


Where & When: Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena, CA. April 3, 2012   1:00PM



"The Kid With A Bike" is the new film from the brothers from Belgium, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne who have been writing and directing together since the late 1970's but didn't come in to prominence until their 1996 film, "La Promesse". The brothers have become a fixture of the Cannes Film Festival ever since their film, "Rosetta" took the Palme d'Or in 1999 and all of their subsequent works have taken home a major prize at the gathering including "Bike" which won the Grand Prix in 2011. Their latest deals with a child abandoned by his still living, able-bodied parent as he struggles to make sense of his appalling circumstances as well as learning to understand what actually constitutes a family.

Cyril (played by Thomas Doret in a stellar performance) is a strong-willed, hard-headed twelve year old who his father has left in foster care for what was supposed to be on a temporary basis. However, Cyril has been told that his father has sold all of their belongings, including his beloved bike and taken off to parts unknown. Unwilling to accept this, Cyril runs off to the apartment to look for his father. The caretakers from the home track him down but Cyril resists being taken back and uses a young woman as an anchor. After they get him to calm down, he is taken in to the apartment to see for himself.

Heartbroken by this realization, Cyril becomes morose and unmanageable until Samantha (Cécile de France),the young woman he briefly held captive, was able to track down his bike and return it to him. Although she tells him that she bought it back, Cyril insists that the bike was stolen from his father. Before Samantha leaves, Cyril asks her if he could spend the weekends with her and, without hesitating, she agrees. At first, Cyril's plan is to use these visits as a way to simply search for his father but over time, he and Samantha grow close.

With Samantha's help, Cyril is able to finally track down his father (Jérémie Renier) however the reunion doesn't turn out as he hoped. Angry and disappointed, the boy begins acting out which attracts the attention of the local gang leader named Wes (Egon Di Mateo) who isn't much older than Cyril..Taking advantage of his desperate need to belong, Wes seduces Cyril in to believing he is his new best buddy. This makes it much easier for him to convince Cyril to rob a local vendor using a baseball bat. When this crime doesn't go down as planned, Wes reveals his true colors by threatening to kill Cyril if he breathes a word of his involvement.

The Dardenne brothers take a naturalistic approach to creating their films where they use available light, minimal music, hand-held cameras and feel no need of providing any back story to the characters as they expect the audience to fill in their own ideas. The first film I saw that they made was the 2005 film, "The Child (L'efant)" which starred Mr. Renier who plays a petty thief who sells his new baby to the black market for money without his girlfriend's knowledge, then struggles to get the child back after he realizes his grave error. Now, it is no underestimation that this was extremely disturbing plot but in these filmmakers' hands, it is definitely intense but powerfully touching and full of hope. "Bike" also deals with some dark and heavy subject matter but the film remains luminous and colorful with a dreamlike quality.

In order for this film to truly work, it required a young actor capable of holding your attention and delivering a true performance and the young Doret is up there with the best. He is in almost every scene and with his expressive face is able to convincingly show us his feelings through every moment of his story  Despite her character having to endure plenty of frustration and even physical pain while dealing with this rebellious boy but Ms de France, (who American audiences may recognize from the 2010 Clint Eastwood film, "Hereafter"), manages to convey her strong desire to help this child with a performance full of warmth, tenderness and good humor.

"The Kid With A Bike" is a substantial film filled with beautifully captured moments and deep emotions. Although the subject might seem difficult to deal with but the Dardenne Brothers know how to handle challenging material to create a work that is endlessly fascinating, thoroughly moving.and completely unforgettable.