1. Entertainment
Send to a Friend via Email

The Kid With A Bike

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

By

The Kid With A Bike
Sundance Selects
Twelve year old orphan? Middle-aged single woman stuck in a dead-end town? Hints of criminal activity looming on the fringes? Great, I'm about to get my heart-warmed. Think I'll pass.

You'd be forgiven if the setup for The Kid With A Bike sets your maudlin detectors on high alert, but if you are familiar with the prior work of the Belgian filmmaking team of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (The Son, Lorna's Silence) you know that they aren't exactly known for an in-your-face style. As such, The Kid With A Bike is presented refreshingly matter-of-fact and, perhaps due simply to its conditional counter-programming, is all the more gripping. In the gaps between other movies' hysterical speeches, music swells and bombastic montages, the truth can be found.

The truth of The Kid With A Bike is simple: life is unfair, really unfair, but a mixture of perseverance and luck might lead to an unexpected happiness. The final, beautiful images of a surrogate mother and son enjoying a simple picnic and making plans for an evening's social activity would appear meaningless, perhaps even dull to a passerby. To our characters, it is a triumph against ridiculous odds.

The titular “kid” (Cyril) is a foster care rebel, headstrong and determined to make contact with his absentee father. While we know he's desperate for familial love, he's 100% focused on getting his hands back the bicycle waiting for him outside of the group home. When it is discovered that his father has betrayed his trust by selling the thing, he works up a number of rational excuses.

The titular “kid” (Cyril) is a foster care rebel, headstrong and determined to make contact with his absentee father. While we know he's desperate for familial love, he's 100% focused on getting his hands back the bicycle waiting for him outside of the group home. When it is discovered that his father has betrayed his trust by selling the thing, he works up a number of rational excuses.

Around this time Cyril literally runs right into the life of a hardworking hairdresser named Samantha (Cecile De France). Out of pity she tracks down and purchases the kid's bike and, piece by piece, gets involved in this difficult child's life. It's hard to get a bead on the character: she is certainly well-intentioned, but she isn't exactly pining for a kid. She is motivated by a mixture of guilt and ego as well as altruism. She is (prepare yourself to be shocked) a well-rounded female character, one with contradictions and conflicts.

Caring for Cyril (who starts spending weekends with Samantha) is a bit of a shock to her system. She doesn't quite know just how much supervision he needs – obviously more, because he immediately runs in with the local “bad element” - and has no idea how to discipline him.

Traditional story mechanics kick-in once Cyril gets conned into helping out with a gas station heist, but by now you are so invested in the characters that any hints of convention are allowable. The Kid With A Bike is heartbreaking, but refuses to represent simple villains. Even the bastard father, working nearby as a cook, is slightly sympathetic while rejecting his son and the prior life he represents. Through short scenes we recognize him as a desperate man who, only by the grace of God, has survived this far, and truly does need to start over to have any sort of life. Too bad about the kid, though. . .

In the tiny little bubble that is the foreign language film scene, there was a bit of a scandal that it was Bullhead and not The Kid With A Bike that got Belgium's support for the country's Oscar selection. I still adore Bullhead, and recognize it as a bold statement of form – however The Kid With A Bike feels more like a classic. Luckily, you are not required to watch only one.

The Kid With A Bike (2012)

Genre: Drama/Foreign
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: Luc Dardenne
Directed by: Jean-Pierre Dardenne
Starring: Cécile De France, Thomas Doret, Jeremie Renier
  1. About.com
  2. Entertainment
  3. World / Independent Film
  4. Foreign Film
  5. France
  6. French Films
  7. The Kid With A Bike - A Review of Luc Dardenne's The Kid With A Bike

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.