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Thomas Dorset (#110 of 2)

Toronto International Film Festival 2011: The Kid with a Bike and Faust

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Toronto International Film Festival 2011: <em>The Kid with a Bike</em> and <em>Faust</em>
Toronto International Film Festival 2011: <em>The Kid with a Bike</em> and <em>Faust</em>

The Kid with a Bike: Modern cinema’s poets laureate of working-class marginalization and spiritual crises, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne are also bona fide motion-picture makers whose works brim with the kind of propulsive thrust that would have left pure action pioneers like Raoul Walsh or Allan Dwan green with envy. Think of the Belgian brothers’ new film, and the first thing that springs to mind is a red shirt zipping kinetically up and down and across the screen, rushing in and out of corridors when not climbing fences and trees. Of course, ardent humanists that they are, the Dardennes are interested first and foremost in the character wearing the shirt, a runty, half-feral 11-year-old boy (Thomas Dorset) whose single-minded pursuit of a feckless father who doesn’t want to see him (Jérémie Renier) adds to the filmmakers’ indelible intergenerational galleries of children plunging into adult worlds and adults learning to move beyond childish confines. As talismanic as De Sica’s, the bike of the title becomes the main element through which the film scrutinizes the boy’s anger and confusion, his relationship with a sympathetic hairdresser (Cécile de France) and a neighborhood hood (Egon Di Mateo), and the abrupt and furtive acts of revenge and compassion that lift rough-hewn realism into the realm of cinematic grace. Astoundingly unsentimental yet consistently heart-squeezing.

Cannes Film Festival 2011: The Kid with a Bike, Pina, & Good Bye

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Cannes Film Festival 2011: <em>The Kid with a Bike</em>, <em>Pina</em>, & <em>Good Bye</em>
Cannes Film Festival 2011: <em>The Kid with a Bike</em>, <em>Pina</em>, & <em>Good Bye</em>

Famous auteurs occasionally cruise through material so smoothly we misjudge potentially complex efforts as minor. I fear Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes new film, The Kid with a Bike, will be seen as such a film and get overlooked due to its short running time, concisely linear storyline, and almost perfectly aligned mosaic of fatherly failures. Like their masterpiece The Son, the Dardennes insist on destroying stereotypes regarding familial relationships. Yet in The Kid with a Bike they craft an entire film around one young boy’s relentless pursuit of home and protection, packing each frame with a sense of unlimited persistence. Still, the child’s search for identity can be easily manipulated, and the film’s most cutting moments come when adult indifference preys on the gullibility of youth for selfish ends.

An enduring drive propels 11-year-old Cyril (Thomas Dorset) to ignore the writing on the wall that his young father, Guy (Jérémie Renier), has indefinitely left him to the care of a state-run facility. The opening sequence introduces Cyril’s durability and directionality, as the boy escapes and heads toward his now abandoned apartment looking for his father and beloved bike. This trend of catch and release continues throughout The Kid with a Bike—Cyril running or riding away from places he hates for those that might represent home. His struggle is consistent, with every scene dedicated to Cyril outmaneuvering adults and roaming from one father figure to the next.