Alec Secareanu, Anamaria Marinca, Aaron Neil, Lucian Msamati, Alexia Maria Proca, Chicho Tche and Micah Loubon
After a deliver driver’s moped is stolen, he must find it before he loses everything else.
The Rider is an ordinary, hard-working man. Everything he does is done to protect and support his family. He works as a delivery driver for a local pizza restaurant, which happens to be owned and run by his landlord. The Rider’s wife, Elena, spends her days cleaning grand houses and caring for their two children. When the Rider’s moped is stolen, his world turns upside down and a race against time starts to recover the source of his livelihood.
The Bike Thief is written and directed by Matt Chambers, making his directorial feature debut. The film centres on a Romanian family who arrived in London with hopes of a better life. We follow the husband (only credited as The Rider), who works long nights as a delivery guy for a pizza place in the city run by Yusuf, who helps out recent migrants to setup a new life, as well as be the families landlord. Meanwhile the wife, Elena, works as a cleaner and being forced to take their youngest child to work because she cannot afford day care, while their eldest daughter attends school in the area. However one night, The Rider discovers his moped is stolen, and as he tries to ask for help in this unfamiliar city, he realises that he musts get it back – or replace it – before his next shift starts.
Chambers gives us a modern retelling Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves, placing the family in a city filled with many cultures and faiths, doing whatever they can just to get by day-today and keep a roof over their head. Through the first act of the film we follow the family’s day-today struggles and how essential the moped is in their lives, as it is used not only for work, it is used to take Elena to work and to get Miri to school. We find the space the family share to be cramped, with a heater that doesn’t really work and when he mentions this to Yusuf later in the film he smiles and simply says, ‘London’, as a matter of fact, rather than believing the radiator to be dodgy. Despite their struggles with work, there’s a sense of comfort within the space that they occupy away from the hustle of the big city. There is some really good direction from Chambers, particularly in the moped sequences as The Rider manoeuvers around the city, with some solid cinematography by Nanu Segal capturing the night skyline and roads.
The film is an interesting character study of placing the audience in the position of what would they do if they lost their only source of being able to provide for their family and what lengths would they go to? With the film being just over seventy minutes long, it certainly brings a few sub-plots to the table and while it easily could’ve ventured into Safdie Brothers territory (e.g. Good Time), Chambers keeps it grounded in reality, which I found to be refreshing. I though Alec Secareanu gave a rather subdued performance as The Rider, he’s eye conveying so many emotions as he tries to find help wherever he can, from turning to friendly co-worker Victor, to Michael, a teenager in the neighbourhood that we initially meet when The Rider witnesses him and his friends trying to break into a car. While Anamaria Marinca gives a good performance as Elena, I wish she had more to do with the role. Lucian Msamati gives a good performance as The Rider’s co-worker Victor, and Aaron Neil also gives a good performance as Yusuf, particularly in the scene he shares with Secareanu when The Rider comes to his doorstep.
The Bike Thief is a a decent dramatic showpiece from Matt Chambers, with a subdued performance by Secareanu.