Directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Cast: Thomas Doret, Cecile De France, Jeremie Renier
The bike has played a huge role in cinema, from the Italian movie, “The Bicycle Thief” to a Chinese movie I saw a decade ago where a bicycle messenger loses his job when another man steals his bike. Speaking of bike messengers, I once saw a film from Quebec that featured bike messengers. I don’t remember the plot, but I do remember the bikes and the bicyclists daily obstacle course. With the recent interest in bikes, I was surprised how few people showed up for the screening of “The Kid with a Bike,” and sadly, this isn’t one of those films you should miss.
At the center of the movie, is Cyril, a boy of maybe 9 or 10-years-of-age, who had fallen of the tracks. Although background information conveyed subtly, we can guess that Cyril lost his mother, his grandmother died recently, and his immature father has placed Cyril in a group home. However, before he placed Cyril in the home, he promised the kid a bike, a bike that he sold to pay off his debts and left the kid hanging. Fortunately, a caring hairdresser appears in Cyril’s life and acts as a transformative force.
And similar to the young Antoine in Francois Truffaut’s “400 Blows,” Cyril represents a kid on the edge. He’s unable to control his anger, he acts out cruelly to people reaching out to help him, and he gets involved in shady dealings.
On the surface, this Belgium film swims in ambiguity and even the film’s ending leaves viewers saying, “What the…” However, with a great deal of patience some old themes, often present in Truffaut’s films involving children, such as, children are resilient and resourceful. The climax of the movie, (I won’t give the scene away), reminded me of that toddler falling out of an apartment building window unscathed in Truffaut’s “Small Change,” but the scene that the Dardenne brothers provide us has more of an impact with its shock value.
All and all, “The Kid with a Bike” proves thoughtful with most of the acting taking place in the quieter moments, the actors’ body language, and the words between the words, since most of the words coming out of the young Cyril’s mouth are lies. We can also take the theme away that what goes around, comes around as well as, watching out for damage that occurs when we push our anger to the limits. While this movie stars a child, it isn’t about children as much as it is about each of us taking responsibility for our actions and paying the consequences when we fail to come from integrity. When we lie to others, we lie first to ourselves.