The Kid with a Bike

Brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne wrote, produced and directed this account of a young boy. Cyril’s bum of a father has placed him in foster care because he doesn’t want to deal with the responsibility of raising his son. Samantha, a woman who works at a beauty salon is touched by his plight and offers to look after him on weekends.  His bike is more than a means of transportation, it’s also the last remaining physical link that connects him to his father. When the bike is stolen, he meets Wes, an older kid with ulterior motives. Cyril’s desire for a parental figure is rooted in the kindness of others.  Samantha attempts to shield him from the negative influence of this teen with questionable objectives. Wes exploits something in Cyril’s personality we haven’t seen yet. Their relationship reveals the film’s most striking development. This French language export from Belgium won the Grand Prix, the second-most prestigious prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011.

Coming of age tales heavily rely on the emotional connection that audiences share with the protagonist. If we can’t identify with the star, then the story may not have merit. Even the best child actors can drift into precociousness. This is not the case here, as young actor Thomas Doret is captivating in a natural rendition. The Dardenne brothers get credit for allowing our lead character to just react. When faced with the reality of his situation, he underplays, sometimes in silence, which speaks much louder than any dialogue ever could. His acting is less of a performance than the candidly captured portrait of an actual 11 year old boy. He commands attention.

Doret’s talent makes up for the bare bones details that sometimes remain underdeveloped. Where is Cyril’s mother? Or why does Samantha agree to take care of him so quickly? These are valid questions. Yet the sketchiness of the narrative feels like real life. Often there aren’t valid reasons. For me the hardest thing for me to understand was his dad’s capacity to disassociate from his pre-teen son. How could a father abandon his child after 11 years so easily? The justification he gives doesn’t substantiate the magnitude of his decision. At first the lack of specifics is frustrating. However It provided a justification for Cyril’s subsequent misbehavior. The youngster’s inability to accept his father’s abandonment matched mine. He was an unruly little boy but I felt as he did. Despite his unmanageable behavior, Cyril always remained a sympathetic individual at heart

This heartbreaking tale never suffers from over-sentimentality. It mines emotion honestly from authentic drama. True to the structure of the plot, even the conclusion is profound in its uncertainty. It’s one of those endings where you might ask yourself, well what happens next? Ah but such is life! The brilliance of the story is in its ability to reflect the uncertainly and ambiguity of human existence, all united by Thomas Doret’s honest portrayal of a troubled youth.

9 Responses to “The Kid with a Bike”

  1. Great review, Mark! 🙂


  2. Great review, and seems like an interesting enough movie where I might see it some time.


  3. Lovely review Mark; I’m very jealous you had the chance to see this. It’s not on general release here, but I’m really looking forward to seeing it.


  4. Glad I saw this. It was very raw and very real. Kid was amazing.


  5. The questions that remain unanswered are exactly the reason why I loved the movie. The ending is one of the best I’ve seen this year.


  6. This was my favorite film of 2012. It marked a year with great movies about children or movies that had great performances by children, including ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ – ‘Undefeated’ – ‘Bullhead’ – ‘Michael’ and ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’, and the boy’s nickname in this movie is “pitbull” and it’s just interesting to see the primal and almost animalistic nature that the filmmaking brothers get at here, again like watching a beast in the French wild, yet the humanity and grace here is far above that of almost any other movie I saw this year.


    • It definitely was memorable. Interesting you mentioned Bullhead because that ended up being Belgium’s submission for the Foreign Language Academy Award last year instead of this. Still have yet to see Bullhead. I’m even more intersected in it now that I’ve seen Matthias Schoenaerts’ impressive performance in Rust and Bone.


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