Film Review: The Kid – 8.5/10

‘Please love and care for this orphan child…’

Two years ago I’d never seen a Charlie Chaplin film. Now, having recently watched The Kid, I’ve seen all of his major works and read his utterly absorbing autobiography. I’ve become a bit of a Chaplin obsessive. Arriving in 1921, The Kid was Chaplin’s first feature film and the first to explore his own troubled childhood. In and out of workhouses, and with his beloved mother regularly interned in the asylum, Chaplin was no stranger to poverty and deprivation. And yet, he still spoke warmly and with nostalgia for his years at Kennington Road. The Kid, whilst ostensibly a comedy, is also Chaplin’s most autobiographical film and possibly his most powerful…

When an orphan boy (Jackie Coogan) literally falls out of the sky and into the lap of a local vagrant, the little tramp (Chaplin) must adapt his everyday routine to care for the child. And with a running time of less than an hour that’s all the plot that is required, thank you very much.

While it is the, admittedly wonderful, double fight sequence that remains The Kid’s most iconic moment, it is also a lovingly crafted example of Chaplin’s sentimentality and commitment to pathos. The little tramp’s relationship with the boy is beautifully presented, helped on by a stunning turn by the then six-year-old Coogan, and a typically competent turn from Chaplin’s beloved friend Edna Purviance (credited simply as ‘the woman’).

The Kid lacks the visual bombast of The Gold Rush or the technical brilliance of Modern Times or even the social commentary of The Great Dictator, but it remains perhaps Chaplin’s most heartfelt film. A genuine joy.