The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Finding someone who will love you all the way down to hell

with 15 comments

“If I’ll ever find someone who will love me all the way down to hell, I’ll stay there”.

This was the tagline of a Swedish movie, Love Me! This film from 1986 is mostly remembered because it was one of the biggest failures in Swedish film history after being delayed for several years and exceeding the budget with 50 percent. The director wasn’t let anywhere near a film production for 17 years since the industry had lost confidence in him.
Anyway – as far as I recall the film was OK, but that’s about all I remember. It opened the same night as the Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme was shot in an open street, so I guess our attention was somewhere else at that time.

One thing stuck with me though after all those years, and I remember it as clearly as if I had watched it yesterday: the tagline that was quoted in trailers and ads for the film.

 “If I’ll ever find someone who will love me all the way down to hell, I’ll stay there”.

The words come from a troublesome teenage girl who has lived her entire life in foster homes. She’s provocative and demanding and frankly pretty annoying and I wouldn’t blame the foster parent who gave up on her. She asks for unconditional love, no less. And how do you know that the love is unconditional? You pull it to its furthest edge, making yourself impossible to love. In hell can you see what kind of love it is.

I hadn’t thought of this movie for a good many years, but the tagline came back to my mind as I watched The Kid with a Bike by the Belgian filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.

11 year old Cyril is only at his first foster home, but he certainly doesn’t make it easy to love him. If it wasn’t for Samantha, who steps into his life, takes him under her wings on the weekends and him a break from the orphanage where his father has put him, I would expect him to end up in a bad place.

“It’s him or me”, exclaims Samantha’s frustrated boyfriend, who isn’t an angel but a normal person.

“Him”, says Samantha without a moment of hesitation, thus making me tear up. It’s a standpoint she’ll get the chance to rethink this quite a few times as Cyril continues to make worse and worse choices.

I’ve often heard it said about movies that in most cases you could easily cut it down 20 minutes and it would only get better. But The Kid with a Bike has already gone through that process and it’s only 1,5 hours long. This means that we stick to the essentials. No time is wasted on irrelevant side plots or lengthy explanations about where those people are coming from. I get as much as that Cyril is in a crappy spot but I don’t get to know why Cyril’s father can’t take care of him. Is he just an egotistical asshole or is there something more to it? Has he done something criminal? And what happened to his mother? Not a clue. What’s life like at the orphanage? We only get a glimpse if even that. And who is this Samantha? An angel trying out the life as a mortal? Is she real? It’s like a fairytale; there are very few details. Not that I miss them. This movie is like a nice port – it’s concentrated so you only need a little of it.

In spite of the format The Kid with a Bike deals with big issues: love, loss, betrayal, revenge and forgiveness. I’ve seen some critics claiming it’s biblical. Perhaps they can’t imagine any unconditional love existing without divine inspiration.

If you ask me it’s just deeply human. There are a lot of shitty parents out there, but that doesn’t mean that their kids need to grow up without ever experiencing unconditional love. The Kid with a Bike is a good reminder of that. We may need to follow the kids and love them down to hell. But we don’t need to let them stay there.

The Kid with a Bike (Le gamin au vélo, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, BE 2011) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

January 26, 2012 at 1:00 am

15 Responses

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  1. Have already read a lot of positive things about this and yet another one here. Sounds like one not to miss!

    Nostra

    January 26, 2012 at 9:20 am

    • It has gotten quite a few nominations and prizes as well. I think it’s well worth viewing and it makes me interested in catching up on more of the works by the Dardenne brothers. Oh and besides, I failed to mention in the review: The child actor, Thomas Doret, is amazingly good.

      Jessica

      January 26, 2012 at 9:24 am

      • It’s not always that kids act convincingly which might take something away from the movie. Glad to hear that it’s not the case here.

        Nostra

        January 26, 2012 at 9:27 am

  2. I loved this film deeply when I saw it at the weekend. I cried many times during the film. The poor little broken child so desperate for love and attention, no matter the cost.

    Brilliant write up as ever

    Scott Lawlor

    January 26, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    • Thanks! I don’t think there are all that many of us movie bloggers that have watched it yet, but I hope it will get some more attention. It definitely deserves it.

      Jessica

      January 26, 2012 at 1:51 pm

  3. Hey Jessica. Why no rating? Forgotteness or by design? I saw the movie at Stockholm Filmfest in November and I thought it was extremely boring. I can not for my life say it is badly created, all techical things as well as the actors are great, but I was utterly bored. I didn’t get it…

    Henke

    January 26, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    • Oh, I missed that! It’s just a mistake. I’ll put it there immediately. It’s a clear 4/5.
      And I wasn’t bored for a second. I was deeply moved and engaged. Some movies hit you so differently!

      Jessica

      January 26, 2012 at 5:56 pm

  4. I hope you explore more by the Dardennes. The rest of their films are all of high quality (LORNA’S SILENCE being the only slightly-subpar effort) and of a similar vein. My review of the film is here: http://martinteller.wordpress.com/2011/09/27/the-kid-with-a-bike/

    martinteller

    January 26, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    • I’m definitely up for more. I think there’s a good chance that my local library have some. It’s that kind of movies.

      Jessica

      January 26, 2012 at 6:25 pm

  5. Another one of my favorites from the past year. I love the Dardennes. Every single one of their films are powerful extraordinary stories of humanity.

    Bonjour Tristesse

    January 26, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    • This was my first one, but it was indeed a powerful story of humanity.

      Jessica

      January 26, 2012 at 10:46 pm

      • Then you must see ROSETTA and L’ENFANT they are masterpieces. LA PROMESSE, LE FILS, and LE SILENCE DE LORNA are also very good to excellent films.

        Bonjour Tristesse

        January 28, 2012 at 9:00 am

  6. I’m glad you liked it, they’re our most consistently good directors. I haven’t seen the movie myself but I’ve seen all movies they made in the last two decades. I disagree with martinteller, Lorna’s Silence is really good. Maybe not as brilliant as the son, the child or la promesse but still very good.

    Carra

    January 26, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    • I really liked it. I know very little about Belgian cinema making, but at least I have one name to drop now.

      Jessica

      January 26, 2012 at 10:47 pm

  7. […] The Kid with a Bike A small film that dealt with big issues: love, loss, betrayal, revenge and forgiveness. I’ve seen several good child actors this year and Thomas Doret was one of those. […]


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