The Kid With A Bike (Le gamin au vélo) – Art 3/5 Ent 2/5 Worth 5/5
The Dardenne brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc, the darlings of the Cannes Film Festival (having won 2 Palms d’or, first for Rosetta, then for L’Enfant, and now taking the Grand Prix for this movie), are chiefly concerned with stories about the lower classes, the working class, immigrants and the indigent. Their stories resonate with leftist politics and they oppose the commercial glamour of bourgeois cinema. OK, there’s nothing wrong with that. It is rather telling, though, that they recognize the draw (of choice, mind you) on that self-same salt of the earth class towards “bourgeois cinema”. If their departure from their traditionally complete naturalism in The Kid With A Bike was too subtle an indication, one of the characters, a young Muslim immigrant to Belgium, suggests at one point in the story going to see a 3D movie for fun. I guess Soy Cuba or Alexander Nevsky were all sold out that night.
The Kid With A Bike is a truly heartwarming story of a newly orphaned kid failing to reach closure on his deadbeat father’s abandonment of him, and then his failure to adjust to his new reality when a kind hairdresser he randomly bumps into running from the authorities takes pity on him and seeks to be his savior. He falls in with the wrong crowd and has to make amends for his ne’er-do-well ways. The ending, though abrupt, and a little crude, feels almost miraculous compared to the cold reality seen throughout the film. Uplifting even.
Young actor Thomas Doret has an amazing energy for this lead role. I’ve heard apt comparisons to François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, and Doret more than matches Jean-Pierre Léaud’s prodigal hellraiser neglected by the world. I’ve never heard of Cécile De France before this, but she has one of those names that make you think you should know her, and after her saintly performance in this film I’ll definitely remember her. Jérémie Renier, a frequent collaborator with the Dardennes, has only a small supporting role here as the kid’s deadbeat dad, but pulls off a convincing vulnerability as a pathetic bum trying to forget his own failings that makes me want to go back and watch his other movies.