Film: The Kid with a Bike (2011)
Cast includes: Thomas Doret, Cecile De France (Hereafter), Jeremie Renier (l’enfant)
Writer/Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne (Rosetta, The Child)
Genre: Drama (87 minutes) French with subtitles
“This number is no longer in service.” Eleven-year-old Cyril knows it’s a mistake. He dials it again and again. “Your dad has moved out,” the caretaker insists, but Cyril is determined to find his dad. He’ll run away from the home again and again, if that’s what it takes to find his dad. When the people at his old apartment tell Cyril that his dad moved out, Cyril insists that can’t be true. “My bike’s there, too.” But the apartment is absolutely empty. Samantha is a perfect stranger that Cyril grabs on to when they come to take him back to the home. She hears Cyril’s pleas and has an idea about finding the bike. The next day, she shows up at the home with the bike, hoping it will make the boy happy.
But having the bike back isn’t enough. Cyril is certain that the bike had been stolen, and if he can track down the thief, he can track down his father. Recognizing that Samantha has a kind heart, he begs her to let him spend weekends with her… and soon persuades her to help in the search. It’s obvious that Cyril is a troubled child, and we soon figure out that finding his dad may not be the answer… although Cyril is not likely to give up on that idea. While there are people in Cyril’s life who want to help, Cyril makes it difficult. And of course, there are others who think they can take advantage of a troubled kid with so much bottled up anger. It isn’t clear whether Cyril really knows how to recognize a helping hand.
Although this is mostly a Belgian project, it’s in the tradition of French naturalism… from the most honored filmmakers in the history of the Cannes Film Festival. Except for a few bizarre musical choices, the film is totally low key and unsentimental. The acting is “invisible,” which doesn’t mean they’re not acting… it just means it doesn’t look like acting. Cyril is played by a new comer, but Samantha is played by a Belgian actress, Cecile De France, we’ve seen quite a bit in French cinema. (Loved her in Avenue Montaigne.) She plays the perfect counterpoint to the irresponsible, absent father. The film paints a picture of a troubled kid and a kindhearted woman whose willing to help. It doesn’t make judgments or attempt to psychoanalyze anyone’s motivations… which possibly adds to the realism. It’s a gentle movie with a big heart.
3 popped kernels
A gentle, naturalistic portrayal of a young boy who wants nothing more than the love of his absent father
Distribution: Art house
Tempo: Cruises comfortably
Visual Style: Unvarnished realism
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought provoking