[Review] – The Kid With A Bike

10 Apr

Title: The Kid with a Bike
Year: 2012
Directors: Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne
Writers: Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne
Starring: Cécile de France, Thomas Doret, Jérémie Renier
MPAA Rating: PG-13, thematic elements, violence, brief language and smoking
Runtime: 87 min
IMDb Rating: 7.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Metacritic: 87

Though not a perfect film, the Dardenne brothers’ The Kid with a Bike is, to this date, on a league of its own as far as films I’ve seen this year go; the best one of 2012 so far. It’s a truly moving ride that won the brothers the Grand Jury Prize at least year’s Cannes Film Festival, and that’s a truly deserved accolade; this film is a heart-wrenching look at the very emotional life of a troubled eleven-year-old named Cyril, played by Thomas Doret in what is sure to be one of the most revelatory performances of 2012.

Young Mr. Doret plays Cyril like one of those young boys who just needs something in life. What he needs, at first at least, is to find his dad. When the film opens we meet Cyril at a foster home, where he was deposited by his father (played by Jérémie Renier, the star of the director’s brilliant L’Enfant) with a promise that he’d return soon, but one that he’s apparently broken. The kid escapes the foster home, trying to track back his father as well as his bike, but when the caretakers finally get ahold of him again they take him to see his empty apartment, confirming his abandonment.

The Dardenne brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc, are true geniuses of their craft. They somehow manage to always provide these slice-of-life films that really do feel genuinely real in every single emotion they present on-screen, a truly poetic kind of naturalism that makes you feel like you’re just watching the life of someone that actually exists and that makes you forget about the artistry and talent that went into making it all feel that way. They’re incredible, they really are, and the story they bring here is yet another one of their wonderful tales about an ordinary life, about a kid who’s intent on finding a father he so believes has simply misplaced him, and not really abandoned him. And the bike he seeks is a symbol of that old life, of a parent’s love.

Cyril then meets Samantha, played by Cécile de France, a woman who owns a local hair salon and who out of instinct, though one that she probably can’t understand all that well, acts as some sort of savior to the child and his guardian on the weekends. He sees another boy riding past him with his bike, and he starts chasing the thief. Except his bike wasn’t stolen, Samantha buys it from the boy’s father to give it back to Cyril and he later finds out that his father had actually put out an ad to sell his bike. Those are very complex emotions that start crowding young Cyril’s life, but there’s an ease in how the Dardenne’s explore them, and that’s what keeps it all from feeling melodramatic even in the tiniest of ways, it’s brilliant storytelling from beginning to end.

Part of the harsh reality of Cyril’s life comes when we see him look for a father figure in a slightly older kid who runs a gang and so easily manipulates Cyril into joining him and carrying a series of dangerous acts on his behalf. It’s so good how the Dardenne’s show how it takes basically nothing at all for Cyril to be manipulated. And it’s even better when you realize this film doesn’t even hit the ninety-minute mark, the Dardenne’s just know this territory so well from how they’ve dealt with it in their other films; they know children, they know parents, they know the feeling of alienation so masterfully in display here with Cyril, a boy who’s been abandoned and just needs love, and who’s determined to find it somewhere, no matter the cost.

As perfect as the Dardenne’s handle on all the different thematic elements and emotions on display here is, so is their handle of their characters, and the touch they show with their actors. You get the sense that they truly love the characters they create, and that they’d never pass any sort of judgement on them, and the direction they give to the actors playing them is wonderful, there’s not a false moment caught on camera in this film.

The young Thomas Doret is stunning as Cyril, not one frame in which he’s in seems artificial, he’s so perfectly assured and honest, disappointed in the hand that life has dealt him, but still retaining that childish hope for something better. And Cécile de France is wonderful as Samantha too, she has a character that could have been played in a generic way, but there’s something in her eyes that makes her seem rather mysterious, and indeed you don’t really know why she does the things she does here, why she’s so generous and good to this kid.

This is an amazing film, the best I’ve seen in 2012. The shots are beautiful, and how it’s all given an extra sense of movement in those moments when Cyril has his bike with him is beautiful, not to mention that this is the first film the Dardenne’s have shot in the summertime, which gives this one a different aesthetic feel than the rest of their feels, and it’s one that really helps this particular film quite a bit. Everything works here, the little spiritual thematic elements here and there that don’t overcrowd things, the relationship between Samantha and Cyril is great to watch develop, the sudden bursts of emotions that come all of a sudden and leave a truly lasting feeling. All of it works in the best of ways because it connects to your emotions precisely because this is a film that understand emotions and doesn’t manipulate them; the Dardenne’s have crafted yet another beautiful little slice of life.

Grade: A

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2 Responses to “[Review] – The Kid With A Bike”

  1. AndyWatchesMovies April 10, 2012 at 9:37 am #

    This is a must-see movie for me sometime this year. Excellent review

    • ArtfullyBedraggled April 10, 2012 at 9:39 am #

      Definitely try and catch up with it, it’s truly brilliant. Thanks!

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