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The Independent Critic

John Wilberding, Jim Winfield
Oren Goldenberg, John Wilberding
77 Mins.

 "The Bicyclist" Review 
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Once in awhile, a little cinematic jewel crosses my desk. Such is the case with The Bicyclist, a little cinematic jewel of a film that, in all honesty, I almost found myself not even watching.

I wasn't expecting the film. A good 90% of the time, I receive an e-mail, phone call or letter from a director, writer or producer to either inquire about a review or simply to inform me that a screener is on the way. The Bicyclist came unannounced, its DVD case was simply designed with packaging that screamed out "no budget flop."

The DVD didn't contain all the information I request, and the film is fresh enough that not even a website is in existence.

Red flag. Red flag. Red flag.

Big surprise.

Co-written and directed by John Wilberding and Oren Goldenberg, The Bicyclist is indeed an obviously low-budget effort. However, it's the best kind of a low-budget flick, a film with a simple, well told story and characters who genuinely matter. Wilberding and Goldenberg avoid the temptation to go for needless special effects or razzle dazzle and, instead, they simply allow the story to unfold in a simple yet meaningful way.

Les (Wilberding) is the sort of good-hearted fuck up that most of us seem to have at least one of in our lives. You know the type, don't you? They're genuinely good-hearted, well meaning people who can't seem to catch a break and who can't seem to attract genuinely good people to follow them in life. Les has a worn out sense about him, but in Wilberding's hands he's the kind of guy you just can't help but find yourself rooting for all along the way. Les is sort of like Forrest Gump without all the heroics and grandstanding. He's a simple man trying to live a simple life who embarks on a huge journey in memory of his brother, but also more than a little bit for himself as his life and marriage seem to be falling apart.

Initially, Wilberding's Les is rather maddening. He's the sort of friend you find yourself wanting to scream at "Listen you dumb schmuck, just do what I tell ya' and life will work out." The trouble is that Les has always sort of marched to the beat of a different drum, occasionally losing the drum.

The Bicyclist is basically a two man show, with Jim Winfield playing marvelously opposite Wilberding as a sort of compatriot and guardian angel of sorts. It's an almost thankless role, yet both Wilberding and Winfield are so marvelous together that it all feels just perfectly designed.

Tech credits in this low budget affair are kept simple, an approach that fits the needs of the story and also helps keep distraction from occasional sound mix issues and camera issues to a minimum.

It's always exciting when a filmmaker opts to send another film my way, especially when the first film wasn't given a rave. Wilberding's last effort was the short film Alberta, Detroit, a film that received a fairly modest C+/2.5 star rating from The Independent Critic during its run at the HollyShorts Film Festival.

There's that old saying "You can't judge a book by its cover," and obviously the same is true for can't judge a film by its DVD cover. Much to my admitted surprise, The Bicyclist goes the extra cinematic mile with its heart, intelligence and winning performances from John Wilberding and Jim Winfield.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic