The Kid

The Kid ★★★★★

Included In Lists:
Great Movies
Strong Performances - Charles Chaplin
Ladies and Gentlemen: The Essentials -#39

Review In A Nutshell:

For a while there, I have always thought that Charles Chaplin's The Gold Rush would be his best film, as it achieves with great height in its visual set pieces and strong character development, along with a brilliant balance of comedy and romance; something that I had yet to see from a Chaplin film. But now I have stumbled upon the debut of Chaplin, entitled The Kid, and it is no doubt his most effective work I have seen from the auteur. It is a brilliant piece of cinema that manages to tell a much deeper and serious story, without total sacrifice of comedy and fun, which are elements that would become a dominant presence in his subsequent films.

The plot of The Kid is quite simple; a woman who shamefully has given birth to a bastard child and decides to give the child away as she personally feels the journey of raising this child would become a heavy burden on her career and personal life. The film speaks so loudly about the characters but without resorting to extensive exposition, Chaplin simply lets the facial expressions and actions of the character speak for itself. She places her child in the back-seat of an expensive and lavish automobile, only to be stolen by a pair of thieves in which both abandon the child again at a neighbourhood filled with poverty and scum. Thankfully, the first to arrive and notice the child was the lovable Tramp himself. From then on, it becomes a story of child-raising, a man who has taken up the responsibility of a father to a child that is not even his, giving the child an opportunity to live rather than slowly starve and perish on the dreadful street. It is a relationship that is endearing from start to finish, not resorting to cliché complications to cause internal friction between them, showing only the goodness and importance of their relationship; and when trouble does strike, it would be from the cause of others who attempt to break their bond, and through that creates one of the most impacting scenes of all time; the rooftop chase, a scene that manages to be thrilling and eventful, while also displaying a sense of pure love and desperation.

The film then ends with a moment that is cheerful and hopeful, though it is ambiguous on what the fate would be for the both of them. I found it to be unaffecting at first, but then it becomes more profound, the more I spend time contemplating about it.

The performances in this film were outstanding, led by the stirring chemistry between Chaplin and child-actor Jackie Coogan. Both display their deep affection for one another without being too overbearingly dramatic or intensely sentimental; it is a relationship that felt honest and earned. It is possible that the death of Chaplin's first child could have played a significant role in conjuring a deeply moving performance out of Chaplin, making particular scenes feel more heartfelt than they already are.

The Kid is a beautiful film that is worthy of all the acclaim it has generated over the decades, very few films, let alone a silent picture, could penetrate the heart and soul as deeply as Chaplin's debut.

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