Alec Secareanu scorches in The Bike Thief, the moodily effective debut film from Matt Chambers
“No bike, no job. No job, no money. No money, no flat.”
Using Vittorio De Sica’s 1948 neorealist classic The Bicycle Thieves as a starting point, debut writer/director Matt Chambers really makes his mark with the slow-burning The Bike Thief. Anchored by a scorchingly good performance from God’s Own Country‘s Alec Secareanu, it lays bare just some of the realities of working class life in modern-day Britain and just how close to the edge it forces people to live.
Secareanu’s nameless rider is a Romanian father of two, living cheek by jowl with each other in a London tower block. Their physical closeness might be enforced but emotionally they’re tight too. So when his moped is nicked, the ride on which he delivers pizzas, takes his teenager to school and his wife to her cleaning jobs, the precarious balance of their lives is seriously threatened.
Though the film is undoubtedly clear-eyed about zero hours culture and the immigrant experience in the UK, it blessedly isn’t unremittingly grim either. Chambers takes care to show us the richness of The Rider’s family life here – stolen moments to flirt with his wife (an excellent but underused Anamaria Marinca), twinkle-eyed patience with his teenage daughter (Alexia Maria Proca).
And cinematographer Nanu Segal finds a strange poetry in the version of London that The Rider sees from his bike, utterly striking in its composition but not quite beautiful as it quickly tips into a nightmarish scenario. The struggles to find meaningful help, the innate distrust of institutions, the decisions about how much to let desperation influence action, Secareanu’s performance is stellar in illuminating all.