Written by Matt Giles
Edited by Erin Accomando
I went into The Kid With A Bike not knowing what to expect. When I walked out of the theatre I found myself so moved by the performance of Thomas Deret as Cyril, the kid in question. Deret is in nearly every scene of the film, which for a boy his age is not easy. The basic premise of the film is as follows: Cyril is abandoned by his father (Jérémie Renier) and left at a foster home. He lives in denial of the fact that his father actually left him without a care in the world and makes continued attempts to locate him. After he finds out that his father has left his apartment and sold Cyril’s bike to make money he meets a hairdresser, Samantha (played by Cécile de France), who after a plea from Cyril, agrees to take care of him on weekends. The first act of the film involves Cyril and Samantha first getting Cyril’s bike back, and then finding out where his father is. Once the father located, he finally tells Cyril that he wants nothing to do with him.
At various times throughout this film I found it difficult to watch. Not because it was poorly executed or because I was seeing something that I had to avert my eyes from, but simply because Deret is so good in the role of Cyril that seeing his denial about his father and the inner turmoil he experiences at such a young age is just devastating. Cyril quite simply just wants to be loved. Samantha provides this love and care, but it seems that Cyril is more desperate for the approval of a father figure. As a result, Cyril later forms a friendship with a local gang leader who persuades Cyril to rob and assault a newsstand owner and, unexpectedly, the newsstand owner’s son. You see the desperation for approval from Cyril in a variety of ways, not the least of which is when Cyril tells the gang leader he’ll do the job for free because he just wants to please him.
Most films that I have seen like this one are quite melodramatic (Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead springs to mind, a film that many liked but I did not). The Kid With A Bike manages to steer clear of that entirely. This film is directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne and is the first film of theirs that I have seen. From what I’ve read their films tend to focus on similar subject matter, which for a film with such an emotional punch as this one, takes an incredible amount of skill and precision to execute successfully. For my money, the Dardeenes pull it off in spades. When watching the film you cannot help but feel sorry for Cyril and angry with him at the same time for acting the way he does. But again, you understand him. You see his motivations and you’re compelled to follow him and simply hope that he’ll come out of this whole ordeal all right. Samantha is the character symbolic of hope in the film; She sees everything that’s happening to Cyril and does everything she possibly can to save him.
My only complaint about the film quite honestly is the score. The same theme shows up at certain moments in the film and it just doesn’t quite fit for me. I feel as though it’s too sentimental; too on the nose. It’s telling me exactly how I should feel at this particular moment (and many others) in the film and I don’t need it. It almost feels as if the Dardeenes were not sure that certain scenes would land the way they intended with audiences, so they put this music in that just hits you over the head. If this is the case, they should have felt more comfortable with the subject matter and let it speak for itself. A minor complaint, yes, in an otherwise difficult but nevertheless uplifting story about hope, loss and redemption.