Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Kid With A Bike (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway 

The Kid with a Bike

 Children are often a mixture of good and evil and the Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have directed a new film that gives each side its free reign.  "The Kid with a Bike" tells the story of a eleven year old boy Cyril, (Thomas Doret) in a foster home who pines for his father and obsesses. The boy is convinced that Dad (Jeremie Renier) will return from his absence with  his newly purchased bike. 

Red haired and boiled, Cyril is a youngster possessed. He spins with energy and has a coiled animal within. Cyril does not sit once in the entire film but  fidgets, slinks, wobbles and bites in perpetual motion.

When Cyril hunts down his father, we have the uncomfortable feeling that his father sees his son as an albatross around his neck---there is no paternal warmth.

It is no surprise then that Cyril's Fate makes an uncertain compass pointing to darkness or light. The orchestral preludes used from the Dardenne Brothers, who usually eschew music in their films, might be both a harbinger to a good outcome or a grim foreboding. 

When we meet the shifty Wes (Egon Di Mateo) it is a moment right out of "Pinnochio" Wes may as well be a fox or a wolf. With his narrow eyes, Wes is part jackal and smooth gangster who uses the pedestrian magic of an Xbox to lure his gullible prey. The heart sinks when Cyril rehearses the execution of a violent crime at eleven years old. Yet in contrast to "We Need to Talk About Kevin", this is no "bad seed" film. Instead, "The Kid with a Bike" shows that a choice to violence is something endemic and organic to the human spirit. Further, violence and immorality is not exclusive to children. Adults make bad choices too, either out of petty convenience or panic. But adults do "it" (meaning violence) just the same. The choice is ours. Cyril is no sociopath and he has the ability to melt your heart just as much with a knife as he does when he is heartsick.

"The Kid with a Bike" is a small film that weaves and turns. Thomas Doret's face is  malleable silly putty that reflects hope, panic, and joy in equal measure. He has the ability to transform into malevolent imp or Peter Pan in a matter of seconds and his trembling and tight upper lip forever holds us in check. 

The film has a nervous naturalism worthy of "The Bicycle Thief". The camera is like a shadowy moth hovering close to Cyril and tracking his every move. Rather than have an agenda, though, this film just sits and illustrates a moment in time. 

"The Kid with a Bike" can be seen as a  Kafkaesque valentine or an apprehensive childhood anecdote, but regardless of which direction your heart chooses to go, you will be on the edge of your cinematic bicycle seat from beginning to end.

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