The Kid with a Bike Review


Those familiar with the films of the Dardenne brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc, shouldn’t be surprised by what The Kid with a Bike has to offer. As a former Dardenne virgin who popped his cherry here, I found myself surprisingly moved. The story is pretty bare-bones, but it’s an easy one to get swept up in. I thought the film’s second half was much weaker than the first—it meanders and relies on multiple coincidences to reach its conclusion. However, the intense but beautiful simplicity of the film’s first fifty minutes is more than enough to give it a solid recommendation.

Cyril Catoul (newcomer Thomas Doret) is a troubled young boy who was abandoned by his irresponsible father at an orphanage. He’s being taken care of well enough, but Cyril just wants to get out, be with his father, and ride his treasured bicycle. He actually does escape once, to his old apartment, where he gets a double dose of bad news: His father has left without a trace, and his bike has been sold.

During this escape attempt, he encounters Samantha (Cecile de France), a hairdresser who pities Cyril and is kind enough to purchase back his bike and bring it to him at the orphanage. Cyril asks her if he can visit her on the weekends, and she obliges. It’s clear, though, that this boy needs more than just a temporary parent, so she tries to track down his father. What happens after that is far more than she bargained for, but necessary if this boy is to have any hope of overcoming his demons.

Is The Kid with a Bike a thoughtful character study that touches on issues like abandonment and destructive parenting? That’s an easy assumption to make for the film’s first half, and I found myself really responding to it. I’ve encountered troubled children like Cyril, so the film really rang true for me. Unfortunately, what happens as it approaches its conclusion makes you question what the film was even about. It goes off about gangs and the influence they can have over boys like Cyril. Not to say that isn’t true, but it’s a distraction. The film’s conclusion is fairly predictable, but the roundabout way it gets there detracts from the tight and very authentic start to the film.

Thomas Doret shines as Cyril. He’s not an easy character to sympathize with (just wait until you see some of the terror he unleashes), but one look at him will show you the kind of pain he’s internalizing. Your heart will break as you see his father reject him time after time while he continues to make excuses up for his inexcusable behavior. “Your father sold your bike,” Samantha tells Cyril. “No, someone stole it from him. He’d never do that,” the boy responds with such certainty. It’s actually quite difficult to watch him suffer in the dark like that, and it certainly doesn’t get any easier when he learns the sad truth.

Many of you will probably recognize Cecile de France from Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter. Well, she survived that pile of garbage to give a great performance. It’s not clear why Samantha agrees to house Cyril in the first place (one of the film’s chief faults), but once she gets involved, she has no choice but to stick with him. There are a few occasions, however, when she genuinely feels torn, and de France sells those moments brilliantly.

The Kid with a Bike should find a small audience. It’s certainly deserving of it, despite it’s flaws. Finding the film might be difficult, but if you’re able to check it out, do so. Doret pulls of something truly difficult, and you’ll definitely find yourself quite moved on more than one occasion.

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