Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Written and Directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Starring Thomas Doret and Cecile de France

When I think kids on bikes, I think of happy little children pedaling their hearts out to get up hills and coasting down them afterward with the wind in their hair and their hands off the handles. I do not think about young boys, abandoned by their fathers and gripping to their bikes desperately as the last and final lifeline between them and the parental comfort they used to know. Fortunately for me, the Dardenne Brothers, do see things this way in their eye-opening and often heartbreaking film, THE KID WITH A BIKE.

Cyril is a 12-year-old boy living in a state run foster home after his father left him there a month earlier. In an impressive performance by unknown actor, Thomas Doret, who was chosen from over 100 auditions, Cyril is not like any child I’ve seen on screen. He is uncontrollable and unconsolable. From the moment we meet him, he is refusing to accept the reality of his situation, understandably so mind you considering the poor guy is all of 12 and is still waiting for his father to come back and get him. He is constantly trying to run away, to the point of needing restraint on a number of occasions. His angst is untamable until a woman he met only one, named Samantha, and played by the lovely, Cecile de France, brings him the bike his father had given him at one point, but had taken with him when he left. This random act of kindness forms a kinship between the two of them that neither expects nor knows how to process.

THE KID WITH A BIKE keeps in step with most of the Dardennes Brothers previous work by not being overly sentimental, but breaks away to some extent by being reasonably more bright in tone and by containing music, something the Dardennes Brothers tend to avoid as a general rule. The result may be more accessible to some extent but the subject matter itself maintains the film’s gravitas. The unlikely relationship that unfolds on screen between Cyril and Samantha, and the difficulty with which it is achieved, reminds me of that uphill pedal from earlier. And with the close of the film, comes that exhilarating downhill freedom.

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