Brotherly love – The Kid with a Bike review

The Kid with a Bike – Starring Thomas Doret and Cecile de France. Directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. Rated M. Originally published July 28, 2011. By Simon Miraudo.

It’s easy to watch a movie in which very little ostensibly happens, and to overlook the Earth-shattering revelations and heartbreaking truths hidden under the surface. The Dardenne brothers’ The Kid with a Bike is one such movie. The film is less than 90 minutes long, and divided somewhat into three separate acts (signified by short, haunting stings of music). Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have a way of creeping up on you; imparting some truly inspired universal wisdom without ever being preachy, and without even having to resort to melodrama or extreme conflict.

Thomas Doret gives an inspired performance as 11-year-old Cyril, less of a boy than an energetic pup (he’s later nicknamed ‘Pitbull’); he moves as quickly, furiously and with the tenacity of an unchained dog. As the film begins, he’s looking for his father, who has gone broke, dumped Cyril in a boarding house and skipped town. When Cyril finally finds and confronts him, he does it not with anger, but with the eagerness to reunite and undying loyalty that a canine might feel to even the cruelest owner. The father tells him he wants nothing to do with the boy, and as heartbreaking as it is for Cyril, there is something even more heartbreaking about a terrified man who feels he has no choice but to cut ties with his son.

Later in the film, Cyril turns to crime, and although he’s penitent, one of his victims cannot accept the apology (leading to a nearly tragic finale). Again, the sad character here is the unforgiving victim. Cecile de France stars as Samantha, a kindly hairdresser who accidentally finds herself involved in Cyril’s life, and offers him a home out of the goodness of her own heart. Her patience, although tested, seemingly knows no bounds; she is hurt repeatedly by Cyril, but she never turns him away.

The Kid with a Bike is a powerful film about compassion and forgiveness, and the tragedy of not having the capability for either. Samantha, unlike the other characters, is not afraid of the pain that comes with having a relationship, and being human. That’s because she knows the benefits too. The life she and Cyril carve for themselves is occasionally troubled, but it’s also full of love. That’s more than can be said for the lonely father, who has to live with the knowledge that he turned his only son away.


Check out Simon’s other reviews here.

This review was first run – in slightly longer form – during the 2011 Melbourne International Film Festival. The Kid with a Bike is exclusively screening at the Cinema Nova in Melbourne.

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