The Kid

The Kid ★★★½

The Kid offers a molecularly constructed yarn of madcap Dickensian caper and well-tuned sentimental yearning. Chaplin's filmmaking is stream-lined and efficient—gags are deployed opposite moments of pathos, close-ups are fully earned, and a tangential dream sequence somehow elevates the film's species of downtrodden levity. In essence, everything here is well-portioned, and Chaplin never swings too far in either the direction of maudlin navel-gazing or apathetic glamour, leaving us with a narrative so elegantly constructed that it can't help but feel timeless. And yet, other parts lack the sharp poignance shared by the Tramp and the kid; namely, the woman's journey of reclamation, which begins on uneven footing (heightened by the early equivocation of her with Christ, which, come on) and never quite manages to congeal. The entire "missed encounter" narrative engine is completely novel and resonant, but you can practically tell Chaplin is reticent to lean into it and test the potential of the medium (even if the editing here is razor sharp and ostensibly up to the task), and we're ultimately delivered a limp ending that fails to capitalize on the charged stakes.