The Kid With A Bike Review

The world can be such a cold and unfeeling place, devoid of sentiment, hope seems but a fairytale. In The Kid with a Bike (Le Gamin au Vélo) the Dardenne Brothers depict a very real life situation but tease the optimism from it. Don’t be fooled, there is no Hollywood saccharine here, merely the small miracles that occur but go unnoticed in everyday life. Their work is real and affecting, framing a snapshot of young Cyril’s (Thomas Doret) life and how it changes forever in the short while it is on screen.

Cyril, abandoned by his father (Jerémie Renier), stays at state-run youth complex, a lovely old building surrounded by plush, tree-lined garden. He is far from happy, forever wearing red, the boy cuts a sullen and often aggressive streak among the other residents whom he refuses to engage with. His searches for his father lead to a chance encounter with the kind hearted Samantha (Cécile De France) who brings him the bike his father had sold. Cyril sees in Samantha someone who he can trust; he begins to stay with her at weekends as he starts to assimilate himself back into society after the devastating rejection of his father.

The casting of Thomas Doret as Cyril is the masterstroke of this film. The young man treads a fine line between despondency and rage that makes it impossible to look away. His expectedly childish mood-swings are expertly timed, catching the viewer off guard at times, a frustrating dilemma for the audience proves even more so for Samantha as she desperately tries to cling to the soul of Cyril. Samantha’s obsession with saving the young boy goes completely unexplained, Cécile De France conveys a woman with unknown passion and surpassing patience. Doret produces a performance belying his tender years as he prickles when touched and shifts swiftly from tireless sanguinity when meeting his father and vengeful violence when requested to stay indoors by Samantha. He seems to crave a male figure in his life he can trust, Samantha must convince him she can fill the empty space and keep him away from crooked neighbourhood figure Wes (Egon Di Mateo).

The Dardennes make sure that Cyril is almost never off camera and fashion the boy in red to draw the eye to him and exaggerate the tension within. As Samantha drives him home from a shattering separation from his father the camera watches from the back seat. Cyril casts a forlorn look out the window and the camera pans to Samantha. Suddenly she shrieks and the camera moves violently back to Cyril as he tears at his face in fury. She begins to slow the car down to stop him from banging his head against the car door. The camera moves with the action in such a volatile way that it appears as stricken with the situation as Samantha.

The Kid with a Bike is a perfect example of the brilliance of much modern European cinema. It does not seek out the extraordinary stories, just the opposite. It searches for the ordinary and adds the extra. The Dardennes are masters of this art; they instil a sense of importance to Cyril’s story that might not be there otherwise. This kind of situation happens to many children but this one elicits emotion and compassion that would not be found in dealings with even a real life version. This is a thoroughly touching film, discovering the hope where there appears to be none, continuing a tradition of excellence on the part of the Belgian siblings.

About The Author

Jonathan went back to university to study Film Journalism in Glasgow in 2012 and hasn't looked back since. Writing for the Edinburgh Internation Film Festival, The Birmingham Review, The Electrolyte Magazine as well as Front Row Reviews he enjoys working across media and if not lambasting folk about politics it's film on his agenda. Working in The Electric Cinema in Birmingham has allowed him to come closer to the medium he loves, his favourite filmmaker is Wong Kar-Wai.

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