Let me reiterate everything Steve says about THE KID WITH A BIKE. It’s my favorite film of the year so far and I’ll be surprised if that changes, and Steve’s A+ rating means he thinks it a Best of the Year contender.
When I saw KID WITH BIKE a second time, I thought, I wanna take the Kendricks (the guys who made COURAGEOUS) to this film, slap them upside the head and say, “THIS is how you make a movie about fatherlessness.” And about divine grace, about the mystery of faith, about providence, about “love” as a verb not a feeling. About, to quote another recent film, the way of law and the way of grace. And how to just absolutely wreck a hardened cynic like myself with (I am not kidding) a scene of a boy stirring a saucepan. There is also a late scene that has produced audible audience-wide gasps every time I have seen it. One bud of mine, a devout atheist, put his hand over his mouth at that moment. When I first saw the film, it caught me unprepared that I actually said to myself “no” (as in “no, you can’t do that”).
To mention a couple of things Steve didn’t go into (much)—where do the Dardenne brothers find these actors in film after film? How does an 11-year-old boy like Thomas Doret, who had never acted before (and I’m convinced must have seen very little TV/movies), have so much depth and handle extreme emotions and constant movement with such assurance and naturalness, with not a trace of actorliness. And Doret plays a seemingly different character in the few scenes he’s around his father, going from a feral “Pitbull” to an eager puppy-dog happy just to be given an obvious, get-out-of-my-hair piece of make-work as keeping the chicken sauce warm. And Cecile de France as the beauty-shop owner is a trained professional actress, but her somewhat more actorly performance fits in seamlessly because she comes from outside the boy’s world in some sense.
In direction, these two brothers (the greatest film-makers in the world IMHO) do everything right without ever seeming to do anything at all, and how they tell you so much without seeming to tell you anything. The way Samantha says “I don’t know” to the same “why?” question Olivier Gourmet gets at similar point in THE SON, the unobtrusive use of a tree at the start, two apologies, their economical cutting—e.g. from an “on the ground floor” direction to a elevator.
Looking at their whole ouevre, for film-makers with a working-class sensibility but who are often lauded (ignorantly) for making films about “Occupy Wall Street” types (that was actually said at one festival screening I went to), their two noblest and “best” characters are petit bourgeois small-business owners—Gourmet in THE SON and DeFrance here.
Because it’s a small foreign film with no stars, it’s probably only gonna play a week or so if you’re not living in NY, LA, DC, etc., so keep your eyes peeled.