Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Kid With A Bike (2011, Jean-Piere & Luc Dardenne)

Abandoned youth, directionless angst, and the limitless capacity for human kindness fills the newest offering from the Dardenne Brothers. The Kid With A Bike is the most accessible of their films to date, filled with genuine emotion and tenderness but also that cold slice of pseudo-reality that runs through all of their work. As usual you can expect a film devoid of any idea of closed romantic realism but still one of the most uplifting experiences of the year. 

Cyril is a young boy who has been rejected by his father, living in a foster home due to his father's lack of responsibility Cyril spends the first half of the story coming to terms with his unaffectionate parent. A struggle which unfurls heartbreakingly as you see the one way street of love the two of share. Within a struggle happening in a local medical practice between Cyril and his social workers, a woman literal topples into Cyril's life as he uses her as an anchor to meet his demands. This woman, Samantha, played by the wonderful C├ęcile De France, takes an instant liking to the troubled boy and later reunites him with the bike his father took from him. A relationship grows between the two as Cyril stays with Samantha on weekends before becoming his permanent foster parent. Not all is happy families at first, though; Cyril resents his new carer and doesn't stop at filling the gap left by the absence of a father figure which gravitates him towards a life of crime. The central drama revolves around Samantha's devotion to the young boy and her battle to keep him from ruining his life, desperately trying to restore his faith in the people who really care and not those out to exploit him. 

Samantha's love for Cyril is never explained through her own upbringing or any factors from her past and neither do we wonder her reasons, she just does, unconditionally through the sacrifices she makes from him from the offset. There is a moment when she breaks down realising Cyril is beyond help, her emotional outburst is heart wrenching, a mighty testament to De France's palpable performance and the sheer power of cinema on display. Pure cinema that comes from a human place, one that isn't moulded with a demographic in mind. The Dardenne's films, like the undeniable post-war movements they're so in tune with, are of small human crises that of course in the shadow of big budget Hollywood seem insignificant to some, but it's these stories that matter and are the ones we often live through ourselves. If the cinema is a vessel for the human experience then the Dardennes are creating pure cinema.

The film has a revelation in the form of Thomas Doret as Cyril who makes his acting debut here, the psychology behind his eyes is just remarkable as you can see his thoughts and feel his detachment. The pent up emotions of the film are beautifully displayed with the use of Beethoven's 'Adagio un poco mosso' which sporadically plays in dramatically heightened moments before refraining, only in the closing credits does the piece unfold beyond what was allowed during the drama.

The Kid With A Bike is as masterful and deeply humane as anything you'd expect from these two filmmakers who throughout their career seem incapable of making a film without relevance. They are two of the finest living directors, kings of understatement, achieving more than most artists ever aspire to or dreamed of. At times during the film I was so caught up in the lives of these characters during certain moments I could swear my heart ceased beating, very few films contain this power and even fewer filmmakers can harness it. The secret to their success is their sincerity and appreciation for basic human experiences with their most recent venture being perhaps the best example of this rare humanity.

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