09 April 2012

One Good Turn

Given that I don't like bikes and I'm not particularly fond of kids, The Kid with a Bike (Le gamin au vélo) may seem like an odd film choice for me. But there aren't many great films out at the moment and, faced with a choice between several different arty and/or foreign films, I decided to go for the new movie from Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, mainly because I was at the première at the Cannes Film Festival last year. And, in case it isn't clear from my photo in that blog post, when I say "at," I mean "watching the stars arrive at the Palais des Festivals through a chain-link fence."

Cyril Catoul (Thomas Doret) is the eponymous kid, who is indeed seen on his bike for about 60% of the film. He spends another 10% of the film trying to get his bike back from various would-be thieves and another 10% running away or just plain running. Abandoned by his crap dad (Jérémie Renier), who wants to start a new life with no kids or bikes, he is taken in to a children's home but he is far from happy and is constantly trying to escape and to try to find his dad. He doesn't believe his father could really have abandoned him. By chance, he meets Samantha (Cécile de France), a hairdresser, who, after seeing quite how distressed Cyril is, helps him get his bike back and agrees to look after him at the weekends. This is no straightforward happily ever after, however, because Cyril still insists on meeting up with his father, even though he might not like the outcome, and Samantha's patience is tested when Cyril falls in with a bad crowd, led by the charismatic Wes (Egon Di Mateo), who seems to like Cyril but whose criminal activities aren't the best influence.

De France is key to the strength of the film. She is great as the caring Samantha, who really doesn't want to regret doing the right thing. Doret's troubled Cyril is suitably sullen, angry and devastated; I didn't always like Cyril but I did always sympathise, especially after seeing his useless father, who is symbolic of everything that has ever gone wrong in Cyril's life and demonstrates why the boy finds it so difficult to trust or care for anyone. At 87 minutes, The Kid with a Bike is a fairly short film and it is tightly edited, although there are a lot of scenes of Cyril riding his bike looking sad while melancholy music plays in the background. It wasn't one of my favourite films of the year so far but I enjoyed it more than I imagined.

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