Universal and... universally appreciated.

  • 24.05.2011

“If the brothers tell a hard story, they also sign a film that tends towards light, hope, appeasement, reconstruction”, writes Jérôme Colin in Mosquito . … They show us that only the human can save the human. That we must fight (if possible with others) to push back the suffering, to learn to let go of the past. To dare to look straight ahead. And this, the Dardenne brothers finally explain without heaviness or pathos. In a film with a limpid, clear, simple direction. Insured. Which leaves the actors ample space to express themselves (the face-to-face between the kid and his father in the kitchen of a restaurant is splendid). A beautiful film of cinema. No fuss.”

“More serene the guys from Seraing?”, Fabienne Bradfer surmises in Le Soir . “Totally, even if their film, inscribed in the here and now, still contains the fundamentals of a hard and frontal cinema and pursues without bluster the violent observation of the world in which we live. But we can talk about change in continuity. With sunshine in every shot, a well-known actress as a good fairy and music here and there. The whole thing is mastered without fail.”

The light, there is a lot of talk about it in the articles devoted to the film. In Le Focus Vif, Louis Danvers admits that he was touched by le Gamin, which he praises without restraint or false modesty: “Harsh and heartbreaking like the lack of love; tender to the heart like a promise of the future, captivating like a suspense thriller and moving like those Italian neo-realist films centered on childhood, Le Gamin au Vélo continues the Dardennes’ deeply humanistic work in a luminous mode.”

It is not only in Belgium that journalists let themselves go to the pleasure of raw emotion. In The World (available to subscribers only), Jean-Luc Doulin also speaks of a thriller: “Exploring the soul by scraping the bone, they orchestrate a sentimental thriller, and their moral study is worthy of Emmanuel Levinas. The sentimental suspense is maintained in the certainty that “ethics is an optic.” The kid on the bike is that “pale child” of which the poet Henri Michaux spoke. The abjured child, fallen from above, in an emotional coma, on the verge of disappearance. Great art.”

Sidt Sakho, journalist at Chronicart shares this enthusiasm and focuses more particularly on the acting: “Although the Kid is and remains the anchor of all the scenes, and nothing in the film is committed outside of his presence and his priority relationship to each situation, Cécile de France shines here as nowhere else in her role as the chosen mother, with a mixture of true discretion and great availability, a neutral presence making her immediately credible, indispensable. It is also one of the Dardennes’ strengths to know how to oppose the stubborn obstinacy of one main character with the problem of the equal importance of at least one other, to counter the solipsism of Rosetta or Cyril with the benevolent and resistant attention of Riquet or Samantha. For that alone – but just as much the beautiful holding of an “even energy” staging – The Kid on the Bike is immediately one of the most frank and embodied works of this year.”

The characters and the actors who play them are also what particularly struck Fernand Denis in La Libre: “If Cécile de France is “dardennised” in the role, she radiates a new light on their cinema. Thomas Doret is another revelation.

The Dardenne brothers’ young find is praised in all the reviews, without exception. “.. The impressive Thomas Doret joins the long list of young talents revealed by the duo. The Dardenne’s cinema is alive and well because it does not rest on its laurels, but dares to confront new obstacles from a similar starting point. Thierry Chèze in Studio Ciné Live

The unanimous critical reception of The Kid on a Bike underlines the extent to which Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have succeeded in making their films universal through their very personal cinema, without concessions, emphasis or pathos. That this new work is so intimately Seresian is not an obstacle: without roots, without identity, no one can aspire to universality.