The Kid with a Bike Blu-ray
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Produced in 2011
Main Language - French with English subtitles
Recalling Bicycle Thieves and Ken Loach's Kes, the Dardennes Brothers' 2011 Cannes Grand Prix winner is approachable, compassionate and hugely impressive, writes Mike McCahill.
The biggest UK box-office hit to date for the Dardenne brothers plays out almost as a digest of the Belgian social realists’ prior films and influences – even its title recalls such back-catalogue classics as The Son and The Child. Filmed (once more) around industrial Liege, the new film is, however, an unexpectedly summery fable, set out in the reds and blues of a nursery-school primer, which centres on Cyril (Thomas Doret), a tough little tyke who escapes from his children’s home with the intention of tracking down his father.
Initially, Cyril doesn’t get very far. Cornered by the authorities in a doctor’s waiting room, the lad throws himself around a waiting patient, the hairdresser Samantha (Cécile de France), in what appears a desperate clinging to normality. She’s touched enough to become the boy’s weekend guardian, and to return his much-cherished bicycle, but the bike – a present from papa, back when he still cared – keeps getting stolen: clinging to that, and the emotions attached to it, proves considerably harder work.
Bicycle Thieves is one reference point, but there’s equally something of Ken Loach’s Kes in here. Like Billy Casper’s kestrel, these two wheels are a playmate, an ally, and a rare element over which a disadvantaged soul can exert some control. Yet Cyril’s alley-oops and bunny-hops are the kind of uncomplicated pleasures that cannot last long in a complicated world. The bike, which has its own character arc, starts as a toy, and becomes a getaway vehicle; like Cyril, it too falls in with the wrong crowd, and we fear both boy and bike may end up on the scrapheap.
The directors’ formal economy – their ability to pack this much editorial and emotional punch into each frame without any apparent loss of narrative momentum – remains hugely impressive. Yet it’s the performers who finally ride off with the movie: Doret, in his screen debut, displays a rare, unschooled resilience and defiance, while the more experienced de France (The Singer) comes to stand as a credible living model of concern, compassion and humanity – everything the Dardennes themselves have ever stood for, in fact.
Mike McCahill on 18th June 2012
Author of 215 reviews
A highly approachable, even upbeat film whose structure takes its cue from fairy-tales, The Kid with a Bike is The Dardenne Brothers' Cannes Grand Prix winner about an 11 year-old boy in search of a family.
In an attempt to escape the state-run care home he has ended up in, rebellious pre-teen Cyril Catoul (Thomas Doret) tries without success to track down his deadbeat father. In the process, he meets small-town hairdresser Samantha (Cecile De France), who gradually manages to overcome Cyril's anger and reticence and ends up becoming a kind of surrogate mother to him.
Publisher: Artificial Eye
Length: 87 mins
Cat No: ART037BD
Format: Blu-ray Colour
- Return to Seraing with Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne
- Interview with Cecile De France