The Kid with a Bike
Winner of the Grand Prix award at the Cannes Film Festival 2011, the Dardenne brothers’ latest film tells the poignant story of a boy desperately seeking love and acceptance from the father who left him in a children’s home. By a chance encounter, 11-year-old Cyril meets hairdresser Samantha, played by Cécile De France, who agrees to let him stay with her on weekends while she helps him find his father.
The film’s strength is drawn from its minimal realism, as it opens to show this young boy listening inconsolably to the number-not-in-service messages on the other end of the phone over and over again.
A simple title frames the frank and very real portrayal of the human desire to be loved. The familiar image of childhood innocence, of bike rides and adventure, is inverted to become a symbol of Cyril’s blind belief in his father. Cyril’s utter denial that his father would sell the bike, not only his most prized possession but the only remnants of a father-son relationship that he can grab onto, is heart-wrenching.
Thomas Doret, who plays Cyril, gives an outstanding and mature performance. His unshakable concentration and intensity brings the child’s pain to life. When asked about choosing Thomas for the lead role, Luc Dardenne commented that during their first casting he made both him and his brother believe in the possibility that his father could answer the phone. Thomas fits perfectly in to this real-life fairy tale of a boy losing his illusions and growing up.
There are some great performances in the film, especially from Cécile de France who gives an enchanting performance as Samantha the hairdresser; her warmth and luminosity can be felt through the screen. The beauty of Samantha’s attempts to lead Cyril out of his rage and aggressive isolation into a state of understanding illustrates the impact that nurturing and acceptance can have. It shows us how the love of another can change someone’s fate.
We are given no explanation as to why Samantha allows Cyril to stay with her, nor why the duty to not only help but to boundlessly love him comes so naturally to her. This creates a much more remarkable experience for us, as we are not only invited to observe but also to ask and answer our own moral dilemmas.
The Kid with a Bike powerfully conveys the piercing pain of a parent’s betrayal. It grabs your heart from the start and stays long after the finish.
Watch the trailer for The Kid with a Bike here