The Dardenne brothers do one thing very well--they're like the Ken Loach of Belgium. The trouble for critics more than audiences is that they do much the same thing each time--only better. This year's entry The Kid with a Bike is being tagged a top five contender for the Palme d'Or.
Their films take minimal, intimate, close looks at people with problems. They're exquisitely written, acted, shot and observed. The Kid with the Bike is no exception. I found it very moving--probably because I am a sucker for stories about needy kids with no parents. This relationship between a kid who desperately seeks acceptance from adults who may not give it--and rejects it from the surrogate mom who does, well-played by The Hereafter's Cecile de France--is a good match for Sundance Selects. Reviews are below.
Andrew O'Hehir, Salon:
"An edge-of-your-seat emotional roller-coaster ride about ordinary people in a nondescript neighborhood, it's sometimes terrifying, often heart-rending and completely worth it."
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian:
"The Kid With a Bike restates the Dardennes' style so emphatically it is almost like Monet repainting his lilies. In fact, the movie appears to be a variation on De Sica's Bicycle Thieves, in which a father and son search for a bicycle; here, a son with a bicycle searches for his errant dad…there are flaws, and yet the Dardennes' tough, spare, almost haunted storytelling style was much in evidence."
David Rooney, THR:
"Few, if any, contemporary filmmakers can match the Dardennes for unstinting compassion, rigorous avoidance of sentimentality and unimpeachable emotional integrity…the film navigates with extreme grace its transitions from sorrow to tenderness to distressing violence before finally taking a gentle step toward healing. That most overused term in the therapy handbook notwithstanding, there isn’t a single unearned emotion in this tremendously moving drama."
Boyd van Hoeij, indieWIRE:
"Something that, on the surface, looks startlingly new, slowly reveals itself to be something surprisingly familiar and not all that effective…what we have here is basically a typical Dardenne narrative dressed up in a way we hadn’t seen before. The story itself is familiar but credible enough, and even finds that moment of grace that is so typical of all Dardenne films."
Peter Debruge, Variety:
"A stock version of the same story might find de France's and Renier's characters gradually falling in love over the course of the film. In the Dardennes' hands, however, she Samantha represents the sort of exemplary soul we too seldom see in films -- least of all Cannes, where 'Kid' is competing alongside several entries committed to exposing pedophilia and child abuse. Samantha is one of those beatific yet realistically challenged women, like Simone Signoret's 'Madame Rosa,' who embodies the best of us, putting aside her own interests in a sincere effort to give Cyril a chance at a proper childhood…Among movie moralists, the Dardenne brothers certainly rank near the top of any list of directors preoccupied with matters of personal responsibility and conscience. As such, there's something a bit disappointing about how straightforward 'Kid' is…"
Stephanie Zacharek, Movieline:
"The picture is a bit wispy, somewhat wayward in both its emotional and narrative focus. But it does have a few moments of grace, and its young star, a kid named Thomas Doret, has some critics murmuring about the possibility that he could win the Best Actor award here next week…Le Gamin au Vélo is also beautifully shot — the images have a clean, crisp, no-nonsense look that’s almost a metaphorical counterpart to Cyril’s confident physicality as he whizzes from here to there."