The Kid with a Bike
The Dardennes Brothers have carved out quite the niche for themselves in the world cinema scene. Their portraits of street life, shot with shaky handheld camerawork, have been ripped off by everyone from European art-house wannabes to 22-year-old Sundance monkeys to Darren Aronofsky ("The Wrestler" is a Dardennes movie in just about every way.) So they’ve switched their game a bit.
"The Kid With a Bike," their latest, seems like more of the same at first glance: poor working class protagonist (Cyril, the young boy of the title, abandoned by his father and seduced into crime by a local drug dealer,) intimate camerawork, a glimmer of hope shining through (in Samantha, played with magnificent subtlety by Cecile de France, who tries - and often fails - to mother Cyril.)
But it’s a big step away from their last works. What was once raw and violent is now refined and poetic - for the first time, they employ music (classical, naturally,) on their soundtracks. The trademark behind-the-back-of-the-head shots for which they became famous have disappeared, replaced by more measured compositions. And their plot takes quieter, less melodramatic turns than they’ve employed before, and it only leads to a more fulfilling look at grace in the finale.
In the third film of theirs released by Criterion in recent months (they previously got to "Rosetta" and "Le Promesse",) they expound on these differences in two excellent conversations - one with the world-class film critic Kent Jones, and another where they visit five of the locations featured in the film, sharing interesting anecdotes along the way. Criterion also packs in interviews with Cecile de France and lead actor Thomas Doret, but the real story here is the film. The Dardennes have won international acclaim for two decades now, but this is their strongest work yet.
"The Kid With a Bike"