The Martian – A Review

The martian

The audiobook version of Andy Weir’s The Martian was freaking awesome. It was a story appealing to the logically minded with a fancy for dry humour, wrought with the threat of mortifyingly slow, imposing, potato-based starvation and death, alone, on Mars. That idea of staying human and positive in the most distant, depressing and desolate of lands created a character and overall tone that brought Ridley Scott knocking but does he, Matt Damon and a year since his last released work do those written (and in my case, spoken; and epically might I add) words justice?

Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is 1 of 6 members of NASA’s ARES III mission who’ve travelled a rather long way to their Space Igloo (HAB) on Mars to gather rocks and take sweet selfies when suddenly a sand-storm too intense for their tent forces them to abandon mission and planet and leave, ASAP. Unfortunately, part-way through abort procedure Mark is struck by remnants of dislodged communications equipment, knocking him away from the group physically and electronically as his personal comms fail and the rest of the team, assuming the worst, are forced to embark without him. Through a combination of kick-ass NASA tech, sand, metal and coagulated blood Mark’s suit remains pressurized and, upon regaining consciousness, mark returns to the HAB and plans his lonely survival.

Laying on some intense colour grading over what I guess is American desert creates a Mars that looks just as you’d expect it with understated and effective CGI background geographical features and wind effects that really help to suck the air out of any scene outside a safely pressurised environment. With the film being set in the near future the suits are adequately modern and awesome looking and I want one… sorry. The film really is a marvel to behold from the macro level to the minutiae of Watney’s predicament; from the tumbling glory of the Hermes spacecraft to the beauty recognised in the sprouting of a tater, Scott captures it. Props to the props department on the ARES mission equipment too, anything and everything Watney touched had that NASA sheen kids dream of. This factor is ameliorated by using a multitude of interesting camera angles including CCTV-like status cams in air-locks and rotating angles accentuating the transition between the weightless and artificial gravity sections of the HERMES.

The story unfolds as Watney himself describes as solving one problem that’s going to kill you, and then tackling the next one. Problem one, being struck with antenna debris, is whisked across the screen in a clear, trackable flurry of sand, flashing and dying and spinning hud display metrics and concerned close-ups created a thrilling opening sequence. From there on out Damon carries an extremely linear storyline consisting largely of maintaining vital living conditions – which may not be to everyone’s taste (Oh no this has happened, I must do this!) with low-energy sarcastic astronaut banter and successfully became the Mark Watney character I’d imagined. The passages of scientific reasoning behind Watney’s decisions are distilled masterfully through the exposition of his diary entries, keeping the ball rolling and the audience engaged in essentially watching potatoes grow.

Alongside the action on Mars the PR nightmare and rescue mission are tackled by NASA, Jet Propulsion Labs and other aerospace organisations. Big names including Chiwotel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean and Donald Glover give engaging performances and play their parts in a mission that clearly unites people around the world (a theme of the story – we’re more powerful when we work together). Alongside that, the other 5 HERMES crew members give a great insight into the social dynamic between a team of astronauts. Squeezing such an insane timespan (hundreds of sols (Mars days)), 3 parallel locations and giving so many characters a defined role in the story represents excellent editing and screenwriting, possibly worthy of an Oscar nod.

All in all, despite some cheesy deviations from the book, Ridley Scott’s adaptation was satisfying enough for me and everyone else in the cinema. Cheesy disco and many-a-revelation kept me entertained more than Gravity did but Interstellar still tops the recent space movies for me.

Houston I give this an 8/10.

Broken Flowers – Late To The Party

broken flowers

Broken Flowers, a film by Jim Jarmusch, is now my highest rated film I’ll have reviewed on my blog. 8.7, pipping A Separation’s measly 8.5. “But nothing really happens?It’s boring!” No, it’s not really boring, this director and this particular leading man are masters of apparently doing nothing; the perfect duo to hide an excellent, hilarious film in plain sight.

I’m undeniably a fan of Jim Jarmusch’s work; regrettably the only major work of his I haven’t seen is Ghost Dog: The way of the Samurai, also a great film apparently. Everything from the realism that showing people before/after any action occurs entails, to the trippy soundtracks and dream sequences,to the signature fading in and out is top filmmaking in my opinion. A modern romantic, mystery dramedy with Bill Murray though? Yes. Ten times yes.

Murray plays Don Johnston, he’s dating a pink-wearing, fast-talking Julie Delpy character however he still acts like a bachelor; falling asleep in front of the TV in a college-style tracksuit, beverage in hand at God knows what hour. She leaves him and soon after Don receives an unsigned note detailing how in his earlier ladykilling days (around 20 years earlier) he’d unknowingly fathered a son who’s now of age and already left to find his dad. Seemingly only moved by a fraction of an emotion, Don, with a little organisational help from Winston his neighbour (Jeffrey Wright), sets out on an epic state/country-wide search for ex-lovers and answers.

So quite a simple story-line, right? Well that’s all it really needs. The film, for me, wasn’t much about the storyline anyway. For me, such an alignment of director and actor, a match made in heaven, made me more than willing to just tag along for the ride wherever it was going. The camera, often unwavering and shooting Murray side of frame at a mid-shot could roll for two minutes and flickers of emotion caught on Don’s face told half the story by themselves. In the beginning and throughout the film we’re still wondering whether Don would really want to have a relationship with his son or if he thinks he’s even mature enough to do so.

And then comes the humour. Jarmusch is known for dry yet extremely cool comedy in his films, whether it be something as simple as the ironic gain and loss of a fortune in Stranger than paradise or pain in the ass vampire family members killing your human pals in Only lovers left alive. One of my favourite scenes in the film is when Don walks into a real life Lolita situation and indicates how he can’t quite believe it with hilarious sarcastic quips and eyebrow raising. In fact, tracking through his beautiful exes like a pacifist Scott Pilgrim drives the film. Even more curious is how a guy who describes his work history as “in computers” ever got involved with these animal-whispering, Lolita-raising, estate-vending women in the first place. Ah, money… yeah he was likely getting paid big time.

For having elements of everything you could want in a film in terms of interesting filmmaking, romance, comedy and drama that actually builds to a satisfying, climactic ending (that’s still in touch with the film’s overall tone) Broken Flowers is one film that should never be left to wilt away into the corners of the history of cinema.

8.7, I said it already.

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence – A Review

Pigeon1A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence. Firstly, what a title. Secondly, what does it mean? At a comedic snail’s pace, Gothenburg-born Swedish director Roy Andersson nudges you to answer that yourself.

Made famous by previous works such as Songs from the Second Floor and You, the Living (both of which I am already looking forward to catching up on) Andersson seems to have one of the driest senses of humour on earth – yet completely invisible to most of Earth’s dwellers. There is no complete story to his film, only a series of semi-chronological long-takes wherein an almost motionless yet perfectly positioned camera captures the feeling of situation.

Scenes follow one another like skits from The Fast Show. The camera never cutting during a scene and rarely moving at all apart from tiny pans forces you into the space – usually indoors – that the characters inhabit. Characters include: a pair of miserable novelty joke product salesman who ironically want to spread joy, an all too touchy feely dance teacher and everyone in a bar watching “Charles XII” march on Russia. We watch as they all work towards and fail to attain what they believe will make them happy when all they’re really doing is edging further towards acceptance of misery and death.

Contrasting these depressive yet hilarious (I can’t believe people actually bought vampire fangs from these two guys) scenes are several wherein we’re meant to see the true beauty of life. One of which, a scene where a bar owner and maid serves free shots to military serviceman at the cost of a kiss indicates the joy in trading with an alternate currency; the counterpart to this is the joke sellers who chase shop owners for money owed and fight a losing battle selling them in the first place which slowly drives a wedge between them.

“I’m glad to hear you’re doing well” is the film’s catchphrase and is repeated many times throughout. Is this an indication on our intrinsic need as modern humans only to share when things are on the up? Not at any point does a character say the line with any joy in their face, in fact, there’s hardly a drop of joy on any extra-white ghostly face in the whole film – more melancholic. What definitely can be said is the film doesn’t take itself seriously, sure, there are a few lines that are extremely deep, but even then, I felt Andersson was smirking writing them. The stubborn camera captures scenes with more lying beneath surface each time, cleverly drawing your eye to one spot or region of the frame and letting things change in the background then which keeps a seemingly still image extremely dynamic. Haneke controlled what you see at the beginning of Amour and the end of Hidden in a similar way – both of which seem similar in composition to Andersson’s latest.

This film affirms that humour comes in so many forms. I despise when people say something isn’t funny, heck, people go and see Adam Sandler’s movies so there must be something in them… maybe. Aronofsky and Iñárritu presented this film in America after it won the Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival and with its existentialist, cartoony odd-ball comedy that’s still perfectly composed I can see why.


Inside Out – A Review

Inside Out

The Disney-Pixar production company renowned for family friendly CGI cinema maintains its quality in Inside Out, an original piece that visualises psychology for young’uns and reminds us elder folk of the emotional jumble known as growing up.

I preface this review with this; the last Pixar film I saw was Toy Story 3, my last Disney film was also this. Safe to say I’m no expert on their works, I wasn’t even aware that apparently having a mini-feature before the main event was standard for them now but I enjoyed it a lot (enough so not to spoil it here).

We follow two simultaneous stories in Inside Out. The first is that of Riley (Kaitlyn Dias); we watch goofy, hockey-loving Riley grow in a loving environment from 0-11 years of age in Minnesota and San Francisco which begins as a hypercut montage of evocative “core memories” styled similarly to the first scenes of Up and then slows to a digestible, dramatic pace. The second, is also Riley, but broken down to her rawest emotions – in humanoid form, living in her mind which comically interact and help/hinder her through life.

Cleverly introducing Joy (Poehler) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) as the only emotions when Riley is a baby (laughing/crying being all babies really do) worked well and as time goes by Disgust, Fear and Anger subsequently arrive as Riley becomes more aware of her surroundings. Again, without wanting to spoil anything (I saw this a month before UK release) it’s safe to say all conversations are brilliant – one of the most striking and hilarious scenes actually being in the trailer when the family is round the table and everyone’s emotion-people debate and control like they’re piloting a Jaeger and contemplating “putting the foot down”.

Brightly coloured characters and environments and with expert levels of detail and imagination, the visionaries behind Inside Out execute a quite run-of-the-mill video-game like platformer-style plot but embellish it with understandable, watchable knowledge of the human psyche. The control centre runs the show, a “train of thought” flies around, there’s an abstract thought land, a long-term memory bank and a pit to represent forgotten thoughts… even the ground looks like brain tissue. Poehler’s voice carries tonnes of energy and contrasts well with Sadness’ monotone as they gallivant about trying to return happy core memories (orbs that work like film to project a current thought into Riley’s head) whilst trying to survive the darker side of human conscious and subconscious.

Meanwhile, a more relatable story of family difficulty plays out that moves the story along at a seemingly real-time pace. There’s a good sentimental message that underlies the film but it’s not schmaltzy and the dramatic climax hits all the right notes; adults will aww, kids will whoa.

Fortunately for cinema, Inside Out now has the biggest debut of any original, written for film, work in cinematic history ($91.1M vs Avatar’s $77M) and is currently the second biggest Pixar opening of all time behind TS3. This delights me as, previously mentioned in many of my reviews, celebrating originality will eventually cause the demise of crap ad-fests like Jurassic World and beget inspiring, truly enjoyable UNIQUE works like this or like the first Jurassic Park film.

I’ve tried not to write too much detail on the film’s specifics because I care deeply about your viewing experience and only want this review to prompt and remind anyone to go see this.

It’s a real Joy.


It Follows – A Review

It follows

It Follows made me feel like I’d ratted in prison for an early parole and felt paranoid for the rest of my life about who might find out and kill me for it. It made me feel like an orang-utan moving tree to tree as the wood-cutting apparatus closes in. I became the bus in Speed; unrelenting movement for fear of death. This is It Follows and, by God, did it scare me a little bit more than I expected.

Directed by David Robert Mitchell, It follows is a low-ish budget teen horror flick that takes itself just seriously enough. The story follows Jay Height (Maika Monroe), a young cool chick whose privileged life includes: a big house, pool, an assortment of friends and maybe as a consequence of all this, a new potential boyfriend. He’s cool too and has a swag jacket and before long they’ve done the nasty in the back of his shiny, stylish car (lit excellently and a deserving moment for blowing-up as the film’s poster).

Hereafter, things turn for the worst for Jay. Lazing and nonchalantly dangling her s-exhausted limbs about the metallic and leathery 80s inspired powerhouse of a car, her lover becomes a fighter, pinning her and choking her out. She awakens later, strapped to a wheelchair and unharmed physically however now she’s sexually contracted a curse. No, not an STI; some have tried to relate her newfound vexation with the risks of pre-marital sex in today’s day and age, if it were, everyone should be afflicted and not just in this case only the two most recent lovers. No, this affliction can’t be cured with an awkward exposure, slap on the wrists and a series of pills. If you’re the most recent inamorato/a, you’ll be followed. Indefinitely. Steadily. By your worst nightmare; until, of course, you pass it on. Or die.

Set in Suburban America, Mitchell creates a timeless feeling using characters and props that seem born out of the 80s, 90s, 00s, now, and even of the future. In doing so, he naturally acknowledges those who come before him and simultaneously breaks a little ground for himself. Dizzying circular panning forces you to look over your shoulder like the characters. Long takes past characters/out of windows/into open spaces with people milling around force you to pick out unorthodox beings and these shots don’t feel like chaos either, more like the organised yet laissez-faire movement of extras during the credits of Haneke’s Hidden. Scary moments are tactfully frightening wherein anything that can make us jump first builds us up, let’s us rest, then hits which allows us to reach greater heights as opposed to something out of the blue. Not to mention a superb score that ameliorates and integrates seamlessly with every aspect I’ve previously mentioned.

Overall, like The Babadook from earlier this year, It Follows is another great example of modern horror. A relatively open-ended final few scenes and, in my opinion, a disappointing “final fight” may not be to everyone’s taste however strong performances, a classically imagined script and several bloody scary kills and ghouls make this undoubtedly the best horror of the year thus far.

Though I think I preferred The Babadook.


Ex Machina – Late To The Party Review

ex machina

If you can’t tell it’s a machine, is it not a machine? Does that make it a human, then? Or something somehow of a lesser order like an animal? Hundreds, nay, thousands of films across the world’s cinematic history have tackled such questions from the silent Era’s Metropolis to the most notable, in this respect, Blade Runner. Ex Machina only deliberates the first of these questions; here we watch as Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) applies his best Turing test to the sexiest HAL 2000 I’ve ever seen.

Oscar Isaac plays Nathan, the creator of Bluebook, which in the film’s universe seemingly represents an amalgamation of Google and like… all the social networks. It rules the internet. Henceforth, Nathan rules an endless expanse of exotic rainforest that looks torn right out of Jurassic World; wet, humid and most importantly overgrown enough to hide his own personal residence and research centre that could make Tony Stark jealous. Bluebook employee and master programmer, Caleb, wins a competition and soon finds himself face to face with Ava (Alicia Vikander), Nathan’s AI, within the confines of this claustrophobic, windowless but overtly modern and naturalistic RnD condominium. Under CCTV watch by Nathan (the only points where Nathan isn’t drunk or exercising), Caleb (in his fair-to-middling American accent) and Ava interact and consequently unearth a side of Ava’s consciousness (or lack thereof) that Caleb just isn’t prepared for.

Vikander steals every scene she’s in and carries a nicely written film. Some simple green screen effects, I suspect, similar to those removing Marion Cottilard’s legs in Rust and Bone, make Ava look like a hypermodern Grandfather clock lady. Coupled with just the tiniest amount of twitch and robotic, mechanical movement (so, so similar to Sean Young in Blade Runner) and a gentle, emotionless voice, Ava embodies the classic AI filmgoers have come to know and love.

The small cast cements the fact that this film is about characters and their development; there is going to be dialogue and you’re going to have to like it and fortunately it’s good here. Look at the love Locke received, one face and a handful of voices to constitute an entire film and it works magnificently. Ensemble casts can work, again, with great writing. The last film I saw before this was Jurassic World: with its clusterfuck of high-profile stars from international markets performing insignificant roles; unknown actors spouting gobbledygook, watching Ex Machina felt like a straight scotch and JW a shot in a bucket cocktail of chaser and wasted potential.

Alex Garland does a great job with his first plunge into the pool of directing because he produces something unique and interesting, I’m sincerely hoping (despite already being clearly established as a writer) this won’t be another case of the Trevorrow’s or Gareth Edwards’ where he’ll be picked up to backseat direct a big budget franchise film or the like. I can see it now, the Blade Runner remake… hold on.

Dear Alex Garland,

I know $$$ feels good in your pocket and I can’t blame you for taking the money if it were to be offered, but please, please, for the love of God, stick to your guns.

What you create is worth so much more to art and to culture than another shoddy reboot.

Look at Edgar Wright, look at him and what happened with his involvement in Ant-Man. He worked on that script for a decade and it was thrown out so the director of the 2006 classic The Break-Up could take the reins. I know I don’t have to explain to you why that’s wrong.

Anyway mate, have a good’un,


Now that’s over, back to direction. Garland and crew emphasise the feeling of being trapped by only using stark artificial light in Ava’s (apart from a “window” looking at a plant of some sort in a small enclosed courtyard, possibly used to evoke Ava’s longing for freedom) and Caleb’s rooms and deep red warning lights whenever certain power-cuts occur, a contrast to the sweeping wide shots of the area surrounding the home. Nudity is tasteful and has purpose in the film’s context, something that really irks me about Game of Thrones and no unnecessary story arks arise other than to raise suspicions of Caleb’s being human or not.

And I can’t finish without commending our two leading men either. At first, I thought Isaac’s character was underwritten but after reveals, upon reveals he clicked into place perfectly and you realise what a bloody great performance was actually put to screen by Isaac who’s continues proving himself as a top-tier actor year in year out. Gleeson we’ve always known will become a superstar like his father, but right now I can’t say I ever want his run in lower budget films to end; he was awesome in Frank.

Just watch this film, I left it too long because my in-artificial lack-of-intelligence didn’t have sufficient processing power to drag my body to the cinema during its short screening period. Enjoy.


Mad Max: Fury Road – A Review


I don’t condone starting anywhere but the beginning when it comes to watching a series of films, but today I saw Mad Max: Fury Road in 3D with no prior knowledge of Max’s madness and walked away from it utterly impressed.

Through a series of brash, screeching flashbacks at the most unhelpful moments of Max’s (Tom Hardy) escape from the lair of the dudes from the beginning of Star Trek: Into Darkness I deduced that Max wasn’t able to save the lives of a woman and a child in times past and it still haunts him. This was literally enough to have me on his side, it showed: he has a conscience, the events will play a part in his future decision making and most importantly that he isn’t perfect. No heavy-handed copy-paste spoilers from the last film necessary. I got what I needed to know.

The aforementioned albino part-naked desertkin do claw Max back though and make our lone wolf an unwilling blood donor to Nicholas Hoult’s character, Nux, a respected but weakened driver of sun-worn metallic desert vehicles. These two, joined by chain and blood transfer tubing, continue to chase after Charlize Theron who’s seized a rescue mission opportunity to liberate several beautiful women including that girl from that silly robot movie that we try not to talk about anymore.

Liberate them from who? Well, imagine a mix of Bane and the Troll King from the Hobbit, and squish that being into a Tupperware suit of armour and you’ve Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Joey boy rules over a bunch of impoverished humans by limiting their access to water while he gorges on mother’s milk instead and bangs the cuties to further his bloodline. Theron’s stolen bounty are the most desirable women for miles and they’re smart enough to want better for themselves anyway; Immortan Joey’s feathers are inevitably significantly rustled when he finds them missing and the subsequent chase constitutes the meat of the film.

And what dusty, explosive, petrol-drenched delicious meat it is. All the vehicles and costumes have a very steampunk, Fallout 3 post-apocalyptic hardiness to them born out of when the “world was killed” (something I’m sure Immortan Joe was a part of, as he was in the original MM film, but not something I know about in detail) and little moments capturing this feel like an armoury of attachable steering wheels really sealed the deal for me. The world does seem empty, colonies of warring tribes separated only by sand, salt flats and violent sandstorms all beautifully visualised which helps greatly with following the escape from one volatile zone to the next.

Backed by a roaring soundtrack (sometimes too roaring; there were several inaudible dialogue scenes similar to Interstellar) with orchestral and guitar elements, Hardy and Theron lead a pretty badass legacy (as far as I know) of films with plenty of gusto. I’m not sure how many of their stunts they performed themselves and frankly I don’t care as they all looked great jumping, swinging and pole vaulting between the arrays of vehicles hording around their unstoppable war truck trying to blow them up. There are tonnes of explosions, a fair amount of hand-to-hand combat involving just about everyone and it builds to a strong climax with plenty to keep your eyes open. In my experience the 3D worked well too with only a couple of cheesy “Wooooah it’s like it’s coming right at me!!!” moments which to me feel a bit too Spy Kids.

On top of all that, this article alludes to their being another battle between our misogynistic and feminist film lovers over the strength of the film’s female characters and their right to be there in the first place. Read into it what you will, I, being a new member of the Mad Max fan club, cannot comment on Imperator Furiosa’s (Theron) right to instruct/order Max to do things other than saying that Max and her clearly were working towards a common goal and part of being a team is situational task designation. I’m a huge advocate of more women in film too, I think all gender-issues were tastefully dealt with. I mean, here, Rosie Huntington-Whitely’s character is smart and beautiful and relevant to the story, now contrast that to her other film, Transformers AOE. Case in point.

So overall, watch this film. Support different types of action film instead of propagating the dominance of Marvel or Fast and Furious franchise films. It’s impossible to come out of this unsatisfied and that’s what I believe any action movie-goer wants in their hearts, a good ol’rush.


Say Anything – Late to the Party

SAy Anything

Say Anything is many things and to discuss its themes too heavily here would certainly ruin its impact for a first time viewer, fortunately saying it’s one of the most convincing, gentle love stories ever committed to film I think is more than adequate to warrant a watch from even the most heartless potential viewer.

Lloyd (John Cusack) is the guy so many young men think they are, or desperately want to be. Academically uninteresting but life-smart, naively confident without an inflated ego, Lloyd knows what to say and how to say it. Eventually when backed by his closest friends (all, oddly enough, females) he makes the phone call to Diane (Ione Skye) to ask her out. Weaving round her father’s paternal instincts masterfully like Messi through Munich’s defence, Lloyd through the trickery of brutal honesty camouflages himself as worthy and thus sets in motion 1989’s most evocative romance.

Lloyd and Diane’s first outing together is to a local graduation party wherein the tone is set for the rest of the film. She’s clever, like, insanely. Unfortunately, she’s also wildly out of touch with everyone but her father (portrayed by a joke in a graduation ceremony speech that bombed harder Million ways to die in the West) because of her miniscule social life leaving her widely admired but narrowly loved resulting in disconnected conversations and graduation album messages from her peers. Lloyd on the other hand is almost the polar opposite, sharing everything with pals, male and female, and family members, resulting in a truly well-rounded character.

And as we all know, opposites attract. She has a heart of gold but has never really shared it, he has so much love to give but never really given it; they change one another entirely for the better. Consequently I think the film is truly supportive of young people believing in the power of being themselves, looking inwards to solve their problems and being courageous enough to reach for what they want. I also admire it for its funny and entertaining portrayal of being a 19 year old beginning a relationship, everything from meeting the parents to the excited shakes on the precipice of physical love.

Furthermore, I admit I’ve watched a hellishly large number of romantic (comedy) films for a 22 year old single guy too, good and bad, and from that I can really vouch for the screenwriting here as the single most engaging part of Say Anything. No line makes me cringe like several did in Boyhood’s generally strong representation of adolescence and the sense of urgency created by Diane having to leave for England in 16 weeks to study, of time running out, similar to how Before Sunrise made me feel rushed off my feet is masterful.

Nowadays, I appreciate a film just making me feel anything; Ebert said the movies are empathy factories and I wholeheartedly agree as I was constantly questioning myself as to what I would do in such a doomed-love situation and with iconic scenes like the holding of the radio (with that song *swoon*) seen here I was simply astounded. I’m a big fan of Crowe’s filmography like I’m sure a lot of people are (though I haven’t seen We bought a Zoo) so I’m really looking forward his new film Aloha too.

All in all, watch this film. Male, female, black, white, straight, gay, fighter jet, it really doesn’t matter your situation, I think this is a film about how being yourself can really, really, pay off; and that’s what life’s all about right, isn’t it?


The Kid with a Bike – Late to the Party Review


I’m glad this was my entry point into Dardenne film; Two days, one night has been staring me down on Netflix for too long now and after such a great experience here my hopes are even higher. Why? Well, a fine line is walked here by some masterful filmmakers who balance drama with thrills and cinematography with editing creating something truthful and exciting. They also bring to life a badass 12 or so year old character who makes Liam Neeson look lackadaisical when it comes to taking things back.

The Kid with a Bike at its core is a film about the importance of parental relationships in our formative years. Thomas Doret plays Cyril Catoul, a young lad stuck in a foster home and visiting his dad (I don’t recall his mother being mentioned at all?) on weekends. When the visits and communication become more and more sparse, Cyril’s heart is broken; he has a dad, however no idea why they can’t be together. This feeling of isolation and confusion becomes an attempt to flee his social captivity but to no avail, he made it to the flat but Daddy wasn’t there (Austin Powers will never die) which only leaves him more confused.

Later, Cyril is adopted on the weekends by the local hairdresser (Cécile De France) for reasons that aren’t explained but don’t really matter and is enticed further with her buying back his bike, previously sold by his father for reasons he can’t imagine but we can speculate over. Cyril’s character is definitely what sets this film above the majority though and really contrasts the maturities we have as children that we lose as we grow up against the advantages we gain from losing our innocence. The bike is a focal point for us as the audience to follow Cyril’s decision making and how he fights ferociously decisions being made for him.

Technically speaking, it’s a masterpiece. Close-up tracking shots mid-ride accentuate the happiness Cyril’s found in his own safe haven roaming the streets on his bike, conversely wider shots of him bombing down busy streets, a tiny lad, amongst people and cars kick our parental protective instincts into overdrive. The film is 87 minutes long because it’s edited like a work of art should be. Storytelling and editing intertwine magically about 30 minutes in when Cyril, the hairdresser and the Dad agree to meet in the town centre but Dad doesn’t show. “Let’s go to his house” but Cyril denies and heads off round the corner to check if he’s there but as he turns the corner we cut to them both walking up to Dad’s front door, emphasizing Cyril’s innocent blind faith.

All in all I have to say this film deserved every last drop of praise and every ounce of award it got back in 2011 when it was released. A young boy with the resolve of an action hero and the heart of.. well.. a young boy. I can’t recommend it more.