As a mother comforts her child,
so I will comfort you;
you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.
Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” Luke 15:8-9
I know that The Avengers is the hit of the season, but this little film about an 11 year-old boy desperately seeking his father is worth ten thousand such films. Kid is a Belgian/French production directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne and his brother Luc, the pair that gave us the intriguing film The Child (L’Enfant) about an immature husband/father named Bruno trying to sell his baby for some much-needed cash. In their new film the same actor Jeremie Renier plays a father just as immature. Guy Catoul has dumped his son Cyril at a boys’ home after promising to come and get him in a few weeks.
The film opens with Cyril refusing to let go of a telephone or to listen to his counselor that his father no longer lives at their old apartment. Cyril, refusing to believe the voice that says the number is no longer in service, states that he wants his bike and that his dad promised he would be contact him soon. Even when the boy runs away and manages to get into the apartment, only to discover everything is gone, he still is certain that his father will be back and that he has left his bike for him somewhere. He is told that the father sold the bike, but Cyril insists that someone must have stolen it. Staff from the home arrive to take him back to the home, but the boy dashes off. He is finally caught in a doctor’s office, but when they try to drag him away, he clings to a woman waiting to see the doctor. “You can hold on to me,” she calmly says while counselors struggle to pry the two apart, “but not so tight.” Cyril is taken away, but the woman, Samantha (Cécile De France), re-enters his life when she drives up to the home with the bike in the back of her car. The father had sold it (though a boy will try to steal it latertwo times) but she had tracked down the buyer and bought it back. Impulsively Cyril asks if he can live with her on weekends, and she surprisingly says yes. What follows will bring her heartbreak and lead to her having to make a decision that will prove costly. The boy will meet up with his father, an encounter that will increase his sense of abandonment, leading him to push back and test the bonds of love.
Compared to an American film this is minimalist filmmaking. No fancy camera shots/angles, no speciall effects. And almost no music. Ijust three places do we hear a brief excerpt from a Beethoven piece, which appropriately heightens the emotional impact of the scenes. Cécile De France is wonderfully restrained as the hairdresser with a heart, and young Thomas Doret is pitch perfect as the stubborn boy trying to deny the reality staring him in the face because it is just too unacceptable.
Seldom has a film dealt so well with a child determinedly striving for acceptance while feeling abandoned—and all too often rebelling against those who would help him. Little wonder that it was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes in 2011. The film is also a parable of unconditional love and the cost that such love brings to the bestower. In Samantha we are confronted with the mystery of goodness. The filmmakers provide no heart-rending back story for her, nor is there any cloying sweetness about her. When Cyril, in a calmer than usual mood, asks her why she has taken him in, she tells him the truth, gI don’t know.h But she does, and even when it looks like he has fallen under the spell of an older lad pushing drugs, she surprises him with her decision. If there is a better film out there at this time, I haven’t seen it. Once it has run its course at the art theater circuit, be sure to watch for its Blu-Ray/DVD release.
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