THE KID WITH A BIKE
By Gary Murray
Starring Thomas Doret, Cecile De France and Jeremie Renier
Written and directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Running time 87 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating Matinee
We live in a world of Entertainment Weekly and TMZ where it seems the public knows everything about a movie before it even opens. For the most part, I try to avoid all the press before seeing a film because I want the experience to be fresh with no preconceived notions. Walking into The Kid with a Bike, there was little I knew about the work. I did know that the film won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival but I didn’t know much more. Coming out, I could see why it received the prestigious award.
The story of The Kid with a Bike is as simple as a kid with a bike and as complex as James Joyce. The film opens with a young boy Cyril (Thomas Doret) struggling to get back to his apartment to see his dad and get his bike back. As the drama unfolds, we discover that the boy has been abandoned by his father and is in a foster home. His father has moved on and left the boy behind.
As an accident, Cyril meets hairdresser Samantha (Cecile De France). The woman takes a shine to the boy and finds his bike which his father sold. She decides to become his ward and takes care of him on the weekends. As they bond–his motives become clear. He begins to use her kindness as a base of operations to find his father.
Cyril also befriends one of the local older kids whom everyone believes is a drug dealer. The older boy becomes what Cyril is looking for, a father figure. But the drug dealer has more nefarious means for Cyril. The move twists and turns as we watch how a family comes apart and a new one becomes forged. It is as messy and complex as life itself.
As the film unfolds, directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne show the audience the story without telling it directly to them. It is brilliant filmmaking where all the dots are presented and the audience must connect them together. They show childhood not as some idealist vision but more of a realistic take on hurt and sorrow. Through their lens, we see that not all adults are good or bad but have both qualities at the same time.
Young Thomas Doret gives the kind of a performance that many Oscar winners dream of giving. It is focused yet all over the place. He delivers more in a single heartfelt glance than one of those Julliard trained, Method actors could give in a lifetime. He is confused, willful, broken yet salvageable all in the same scene. The usual rule is that kid actors don’t make the transition to more mature works. It would be a shame not to see more of this young talent.
The other find is Cecile De France. This woman draws you into the scene in a way that few actresses possess. One gets the idea that, with each glance, there is a major story not being told. She carries a longing and heartbreak in every gesture. Without ever saying a word, there is this need that Cyril fills in her life. It is a beautiful performance done with unexpected grace.
The film is not without its flaws. While it is only 90 minutes, it still feels like it is padded in more than one spot. There are moments when it drags along. At the same time, there are iconic scenes. One in particular that stands out is when Samantha and Cyril go for a bike ride. It is a beautiful and simple moment that captures the beauty of the area while challenging all the cinematic concepts set forth in the French New Wave all those years ago.
The Kid with a Bike is a touching and heartfelt film experience that makes people want to go to the movies. While not a perfect film, it is a very enjoyable and joyful little gem.