The Kid With A Bike (2011)

The Kid With A Bike (2011)

Realism and restraint make for a deeply stirring watch, courtesy of the Dardenne brothers’ compassionate filmmaking

The Very Best

8.5

Movie

Belgium, France
French
Drama
2011
JEAN-PIERRE DARDENNE, LUC DARDENNE
Cécile de France, Fabrizio Rongione, Jérémie Renier
87 min

TLDR

Not to spoil anything, but the kid does indeed have a bike.

What it's about

A 12-year-old boy in state care struggles to accept he’s been abandoned by his father.

The take

The Kid With A Bike is a deceptively simple title for a film this stirring. At 12 years old, Cyril (Thomas Doret) has been abandoned to social care by his father (Jérémie Renier) — but what’s really heart-wrenching is that he’s in denial about the finality of their separation. Cyril’s muscles are seemingly always coiled, ready to spring him away from his carers and onto the next bus that’ll take him to his disinterested dad, who has secretly moved away to “start anew.” It’s only through the random force of Cyril’s few words — like the moment he asks the first stranger to show him some kindness (Samantha, played by Cécile de France) if she’ll foster him on the weekends — that we get to sense the depth of his desperation, because neither the film nor Doret is showy in that regard.

The film pulls off transcendency because of these restrained performances and its unfussy realism. In the quietness of the storytelling, emotion hits unexpectedly — and deeply. The everyday tragedy and miraculous hope of Cyril’s life are set off by some enormously moving orchestral Beethoven, the very grandeur of which underscores the effect of the humanist filmmaking: affirming the inherent preciousness of his troubled, oft-rejected child.

What stands out

Thomas Doret deserves his flowers for his revelatory first-time performance here. Cyril is a quiet kid, which means Doret doesn’t get any opportunities to make his character’s feelings really explicit, but the young actor doesn’t need any. Watching Cyril’s trust be broken is heartbreaking, and watching him then break others’ trust over and over again is maddening, but Doret’s performance is so natural and lived-in that he is always drawing out deep sympathy for this kid who could be considered irredeemable in someone else’s hands. Despite everything Cyril does, his redemption — and the tender bond he forges with Samantha (a deeply affecting platonic love story of its own) — are entirely credible events thanks to the nuance of his performance, which works in perfect tandem with the Dardenne brothers’ empathetic style.

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