The Kid with a Bike

Directed By: Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne

Starring: Cécile de France and Thomas Doret

If you recall from my review of Delicacy last week, I was hoping that the saccharine romantic comedy was a hidden gem among a slate of great films from or involving France.  I was wrong then, and have some leftover Merlot to prove it.  I'm happy to say that I've found a gem in Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's French (and Belgian) film The Kid with a Bike.

Cyril (Thomas Doret) is a 12 year-old boy living in foster care.  His father (Jérémie Renier) abandoned him and signed him over to foster care some time ago.  Naturally, Cyril tries to remain in touch with his father in the hopes that he will move back to his home soon.  When Cyril learns that his dad has moved without telling him, he becomes fixated on reaching out to his father and finding his beloved bike. 

Cyril breaks out of foster care and goes to his father's former apartment to find his bike and any clue as to where his father is now.  What he finds are caregivers bent on taking him back to the foster care facility.  Fleeing his current caregivers, he ends up knocking down a woman named Samantha (Cécile de France), a former neighbor of his dad.  She hears his story and takes it upon herself to find the kid's bike.  When she returns it to him at the foster care facility, he boldly asks to stay with her on weekends.  From there, a beautiful relationship is born that will be tested by a father, a boyfriend, and a gangster.

The Kid with a Bike is an edgy family drama that showcases strong performances by the young Thomas Doret and Cécile de France.  As Cyril, Doret is perfect.  He portrays a kid traumatized by the abandonment of his father quite well.  Cyril is a tough kid.  He takes some hard knocks, both physically and emotionally but just keeps doing his thing with his bike.  Having Doret make him into a stolid character is quite fitting.  As Samantha, Cécile de France fittingly brings a maternal presence to the film.  There are times in the movie where this presence is heartwarming and a little sappy, but she shines best in the film when Cyril is acting out.  She steps up her game to the next level in those moments when she has to deliver some tough love.  She becomes the only person on screen who matters in those moments.

Beyond the acting, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne make some interesting choices from behind the camera.  The Kid with a Bike a well written film that relies heavily on its stars, but the most interesting thing in this film is how the Dardenne brothers sparingly utilize music.  Each time they do decide to add a tune to the film, they invoke the same song.  We hear the same music more than half a dozen times at several moments in Cyril's life.  To me, that signals that the particular scene in the film during which it's played is of the utmost importance.  Interestingly enough, the same song has a far different meaning each time it's played as the film progresses because so much has happened in Cyril's life.

The Kid with a Bike gets a 0.03% rating.  It's a powerful, heartwarming family drama that will definitely satisfy you.  Have some wine coolers during this one.