{2jtab: Movie Review}

The Kid With a Bike - Movie Review


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5 Stars

The Kid With a Bike is a far less intimidating film than its artsy name, English subtitles, and Cannes-fave filmmakers might indicate. It comes from Belgians Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, who’ve forged a formidable reputation with their elegantly simple slice-of-life stories born from awkward, broken parent/child relationships. Already the recipient of the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes, as well as a handful of other European awards, The Kid With a Bike is now beginning its trek to art house theaters in the U.S. If it’s not yet in your city, put it on your must-see list. It’s really that good.

Called a kind of modern fairy tale by the Dardennes, their story takes place in a typical European city surrounded by a dark forest that hides dangerous attractions from 11-year-old Cyril (newcomer Thomas Doret) as he struggles to find his father Guy (Jeremie Renier), who the adults are saying not only abandoned him, but also sold his treasured bicycle. Angry, and in denial, Cyril, with the help of a kindly hairdresser named Samantha (Cecile de France), eventually corners his cowardly father who, in a truly heartbreaking scene, discloses that he indeed does not want to see Cyril any more. It’s at this point the film takes a serious turn, and may become a bit difficult for many to watch.

Now raging with hate and resentment, Cyril latches on to Samantha but also lashes out by defying her efforts to create a sense of home the child of the ward now needs. It’s not long before the lure of independence comes calling in the form of Wes (Egon Di Mateo), a local hoodlum who initiates Cyril into his web of criminal activity. Cyril’s prospect of better days with his newly appointed guardian now seems lost in a murk of disobedience, deception, and violent crime.

The film completely relies on the unproven Doret, who is perfect as young Cyril. His expressionless face and concentrating eyes surprisingly play quite nicely into the Dardenne’s bare-bones script. Though the filmmakers go out of their way not to deploy any psychological explanations behind the story’s characters, we’re always able to fill in Cyril’s blanks. Once he falls in with the street gang, we realize he is going to have to learn how to become a good kid much too quickly, and in far too many grown-up ways.

We spend much of the film simply watching Cyril flit around town on his bike, standing on the pedals, or hunched down for less wind resistance. But somehow these are also some of the film’s most enjoyable moments. Cyril seems to find a quiet solace when he’s behind the handlebars, dodging bad drivers, fighting off angry dogs, and pedaling away from the crappy hand adults have dealt him. Embarrassed, we squirm in our seats, while he struggles for normalcy.

De France’s Samantha is an equally important character. She’s big-hearted and radiant but knows when to put the brakes on the sweetness. Though her motivations purposefully remain unknown, it’s important Samantha be a mixture of sweetness and strength at the service of Cyril’s fragile trust. The Dardennes ask a lot from us to fill in so many emotional blanks, and the two leads do a wonderful job at letting us in with mostly only gestures and facial expressions.

The Kid With a Bike is a beautifully acted and near-perfectly executed presentation of minimalist filmmaking. Softly devastating. Many viewers are likely to find the father’s callousness towards his son a bit much to take, and others will spend days mulling over the film’s curious ending. But as the lights come up and the curtain rises, you’ll know you’ve seen something important. That place in your heart that reconciles themes of selfless compassion, suspicion, mistrust, deception, and unconditional love will tell you so.

{2jtab: Film Details}

The Kid With a Bike - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: PG-13.
: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Writer: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Cast: Thomas Doret; Cécile De France; Jérémie Renier; Fabrizio Rongione; Olivier Gourmet
: Drama | Foreign
The Kid With a Bike
Memorable Movie Quote: "Your dad's moved out. You must accept it."
Sundance Selects
Official Site:
Release Date: April 6, 2012
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details yet available.

Synopsis: Abandoned by his father, a young boy is left in the hands of an unqualified childcare provider.

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