Monday, February 18, 2013

The Kid with a Bike

Written and directed by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Le gamin au velo (The Kid with a Bike) is the story about a 12-year old boy who deals with his father’s abandonment as he turns to a young woman for comfort as well as riding his bicycle around Seraing, Belgium. The film marks a departure of sorts from the Dardenne brothers as it strays from some of their social-driven films for something more humanistic and intimate. Starring Thomas Doret, Cecile de France, Jeremie Renier, Fabrizio Rongione, and Olivier Gourmet. Le gamin au velo is an extraordinary film from the Dardenne brothers.

When a 12-year old boy deals with his father’s abandonment as he feels like there’s no one really there to care for him. Why does he find himself in the care and comfort of a hairdresser? Well, there aren’t many explanations into why this woman is willing to help this troubled and angry young boy yet she knows that he is someone in need of help. Particularly as he has been put in foster care while is trying to search for his father in the hopes they can get back together. Instead, things get complicated as this boy later finds himself drawn to the exploits of a young gang leader where it leads to all sorts of trouble forcing this boy to face his actions as well as the fact that there is someone that will be there for him.

The Dardenne brothers’ screenplay is quite different from their previous works though there are still a bit of social themes in the film as it concerns the father Guy (Jeremie Renier) who sold his car and his son’s bike for money as he is also someone who is unable to play the father. For Guy’s son Cyril (Thomas Doret), it’s a reality he has trouble trying to comprehend as he just wants to be with his dad but doesn’t understand that his father isn’t much of an adult figure. That’s why there’s Samantha (Cecile de France) who sees this boy feeling lost as she was able to get his bike back. Through this act of generosity, Cyril feels like he owes Samantha as he helps her a bit at the hair salon and stay with her in weekends. Yet, Samantha does have trouble keeping up with Cyril’s moody behavior while having to see what kind of man his father is.

Adding to this complication is a young gang leader known as the Dealer (Egon Di Mateo) who is amazed by Cyril’s toughness after one of his boys try to steal Cyril’s bike only to be beaten up. In the Dealer, Cyril finds a new father figure but Samantha knows it will lead to trouble as she tries whatever it takes to not have him be a part of the Dealer’s schemes. For Cyril, it’s all about trying to get money so he can get back with his father but it does lead to trouble. For Cyril, it’s a moment where he realizes what kind of world he needs in and why he needs someone like Samantha around to be there for him.

The direction of the Dardenne Brothers doesn’t really bring anything new they had done in their previous films. What is new however is the setting where instead of shooting the film on very bleak locations. They go for something much sunnier in the locations while still maintaining that air of realism that they’re known for. The usage of hand-held cameras are very prevalent in the film though it’s less obtrusive as it still engages into what happens while there’s a lot of tracking shots that are used in the film to capture the sense of movement for the scenes of Cyril riding his bike. The bike is a character in the film to establish the youthfulness of Cyril as well as his desire to find his father. There are also some very key moments in the framing where it establishes this relationship between Cyril and Samantha as they’re presented in either medium or wide shots.

While it is a film about a boy dealing with abandonment, there are elements of the film that are very emotional though the Dardenne brothers know when not to be overly sentimental. Even as the film features a music score in Beethoven’s Adagio un poco mosso from Piano Concerto No. 5, Op. 73 which is a first for the Dardenne brothers in order to capture Cyril’s moods and the loss he’s facing. While there is a sense of hope that is present in the film’s ending, it’s done in an unconventional matter in order to reveal the growth that Cyril has been through in his life. Overall, the Dardenne brothers create a very exhilarating yet captivating film about a boy finding comfort in a kind hairdresser.

Cinematographer Alain Marcoen does great work with the film‘s very colorful cinematography to establish a much brighter look, as opposed to the more bleaker look of the previous films, in order to show a more hopeful world despite the harsh realities that Cyril encounters. Editor Marie-Helene Dozo does wonderful work with the editing as it‘s mostly straightforward while using a few jump-cuts to play up to the scenes of Cyril riding his bike. Production designer Igor Gabriel does terrific work with look of Samantha’s hair salon as well as a few minor set pieces including the Dealer’s room.

Costume designer Maira Ramedhan-Levi does fantastic work with the costumes to maintain the film‘s very colorful look including the red coat and shirt that Cyril wears. Sound mixer Thomas Gauder does amazing work with the sound to capture the atmosphere of the locations including some of the intimate moments that occur in some of the film’s interior settings.

The film’s cast is brilliant as it features appearances from Dardenne brothers regulars like Olivier Gourmet as a cafĂ© owner and Fabrizio Rongione as a bookseller. Egon Di Mateo is excellent as the young gang leader the Dealer while Jeremie Renier is terrific as Cyril’s father Guy who admits to being a very poor father and can’t take care of his son. Cecile de France is just flat-out amazing as the very motherly Samantha as she is a woman who is concerned about Cyril as she just wants to help him as she becomes the one person who will be there for him. Finally, there’s Thomas Doret in a remarkable performance as the troubled and angry Cyril as this boy who is eager to be with his father only to deal with new realities of being abandoned while realizing there is hope in a woman like Samantha. Doret’s scene with de France are just incredible to watch to reveal the kind of chemistry the two have as they are the heart and soul of the film.

Le gamin au velo is an outstanding film from the Dardenne brothers that features exemplary performances from Thomas Doret and Cecile de France. While it is a very different film of sorts from the Dardenne brothers, it still has that sense of engaging realism that they’re known for while bringing something that is a bit more hopeful. Notably as it reveals a very touching story about a boy and a gracious woman who is willing to help him. In the end, Le gamin au velo is a heartfelt and radiant film from the Dardenne brothers.

Dardenne Brother Films: (Falsch) - (I Think of You) - La promesse - Rosetta - Le Fils - L'Enfant - To Each His Own Cinema-Darkness - Lorna's Silence - Two Days, One Night - The Unknown Girl - Young Ahmed - Tori & Lokita

© thevoid99 2013


Chris said...

Agree performances are excellent. I thought The Kid With A Bike captured childhood very well. I hadn't had that feeling of being in a child's shoes since I watched 80s classics such as The Goonies or Stand Be Me.

thevoid99 said...

It is a film that I think more people should see including children. It's really accessible in some ways that intrigued me. I await for what the Dardenne Brothers will do next.