The Kid With A Bike
I love riding bikes. I even have a blog about biking. And obviously, I like films. So a film about a bike sounded like an even better pairing than Brad and Ange or coffee and cigarettes (to be fair, I don’t drink coffee or smoke so I wouldn’t know). But somehow, The Kid with a Bike fell short of my expectations.
The film is about Cyril (Thomas Doret), a troubled child, living in a foster home. He’s desperately trying to find his father (Jérémie Renier) and is convinced everyone is lying to him when they say his father has moved from his apartment. Cyril escapes to the old apartment block, but is being chased by the building’s caretaker. He tries to hide in the doctor’s office, where he encounters Samantha (Cécile de France). As the caretaker bursts into the doctor’s, Cyril clings to Samantha’s arm. Eventually, the caretaker concedes to take the boy to his father’s empty apartment.
After hearing that Cyril was upset about losing his bike, Samantha shows up at his foster home the following day with it. She claims to have bought it, but Cyril is convinced that someone stole it, and that his father would never sell it. Nevertheless, he asks if she can look after him in the weekends, and she instantly, and surprisingly, accepts the challenge.
With his bike and Samantha’s help, Cryil eventually finds his father, only to discover that he was trying to not be found, that he didn’t want anything to do with Cyril. Marred by his father’s rejection, he gets involved with the wrong crowed and turns his, and Samantha’s life upside down.
In an interview, one of the writers and directors, Luc Dardenne, explains that they didn’t want psychological explanations and didn’t want the past to explain the present. They left reasoning out of a lot of the film and we are left with so many questions like: How was Samantha able to foster Cyril so quickly? Why did his father want nothing to do with him? Where is his mother? Did it not occur to anyone that a simple bike lock would stop people from constantly stealing the bike? While I appreciate the risk that they took on choosing this path, I felt it made the characters non-believable. Who in their right mind, with next-to-no coaxing, would accept to take care of a troubled, misbehaved child. If we could have understood why she took him in, or at least hinted at a reason, I think I would have felt more emotionally connected to the characters, and could have convinced myself the film was actually a real story.
This is also true for the ending, which seems to just end, rather than wrap up the whole film with a pretty little bow. I know it’s the ‘festival’ thing to do, but just once in a while it would be nice to walk out of a non-Hollywood film – like this one – feeling satisfied. Perhaps though, I have been so affected by Hollywood’s blatant storytelling, that I have forgotten that sometimes in life, things happen without a backstory.
Having said that, Thomas Doret’s acting was outstanding. It’s hard to believe he’s only 13. Seriously – think back to when you were 13. I for one was practicing Spice Girl’s dance routines and thought boys were yuk. Let’s be honest, they still are. But this just nailed it. He manages to portray a child, with unending optimism for his father, while taking things in his stride. Naturally, Cecile de France’s performance was excellent and I loved the scene with both of them at the river. There were, however, a few scenes that were filmed in a way that gave me the wrong idea as to what was going to happen next. I’m not sure if this was intentional or not, but they did make me feel worse than I needed to.
For all my ranting, I did rather enjoy The Kid with a Bike. I guess if I had sat down to watch the DVD expecting a slice of life, devoid of explanations and backstories, I’d have gotten more out of it. Cécile de France, puts it well when she says it “doesn’t give lessons, it refuses black and white interpretation and emotional blackmail”. But when you take 2 of your top 10 most favorite things in life, you’re bound to have high expectations.
Reviewed by: Nerice Collins