By Steve Greene | Criticwire March 14, 2012 at 6:15PM
For the second week in a row, the film with the highest aggregate score from Indiewire's Criticwire Network is a festival favorite. Following in the path of "Attenberg" last week, the Dardennes Brothers' "The Kid with a Bike" is the Criticwire Pick of the Week.
Winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes 2011, the film takes place in the Dardennes' favorite locale, the rural areas of Belgium, as it follows the exploits of a 12-year-old boy (Thomas Doret) who is put up for foster care by his father and the woman who leads the search for boy’s prized possession. Nominated for Best Foreign Language at January’s Golden Globes (and a winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes), the film is seen by many critics as a continuation of one of international cinema’s longest-standing filmmaking legacies.
The Film Stage’s Raffi Asdourian writes that "the Dardenne brothers have successfully created another vivid portrait of working class Belgians whose problems are sympathetic and truly universal." And Aaron Cutler succinctly explains in his review: "The brothers are in greater control of detail than they have ever been before."
In addition to praising the famed directing duo, Jon Frosch emphasizes the quality of the performances: "Doret, in his big-screen debut, is a real find, his high-pitched prepubescent voice and angelic face masking the scrappy survival instinct that is the hallmark of the Dardenne protagonist."
One of the few dissenting voices is Press Play contributor Kevin B. Lee. Writing at Fandor, he argues that the film revels too much in its own melodrama, adding that its "much-remarked velocity virtually sucker-punches viewers into submission. It’s a fast film (especially as art films go) with plot maneuverings to give you whiplash." Despite these misgivings, even he concedes the filmmakers’ technical artistry, saying, "It is remarkable that so many of these lightning developments are fulfilled in long, one-shot takes, masterfully choreographed, another sign of the brothers’ efficiency."
Another fellow Indie Spirit nominee hits theaters as well: "Natural Selection," featuring an acclaimed turn by lead actress Rachael Harris, expands to wider release. Ryland Aldrich wrote about the film at Twitch, calling it "an incredibly accomplished first feature, full of as much heart as hilarity." Harris gained many favorable notices, enough to earn her the top acting prize (amongst a bevy of others for the film overall) at last year’s SXSW, and the film maintains a B average on Criticwire.
Speaking of SXSW, while the Duplass Brothers’ latest festival release debuts in Austin, audiences throughout the country can now enjoy "Jeff, Who Lives at Home," their latest theatrical effort, starring Jason Segel as a man who may very well have unlocked the secrets of the universe while running a simple errand. At last year’s TIFF, James Rocchi wrote at The Playlist that it's a "mix of the big and small, the micro-to-macro zoom of the plot and themes, that makes ‘Jeff Who Lives at Home’ as appealing as it is."