Directed by the award winning, Belgium duo Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (two time Palme D’Or winners), The Kid with a Bike (Le Garmin Au Velo) continues their remarkable sibling partnership. Consistently capturing the raw poetic essence of human nature, Kid With a Bike paints a familiar picture of domestic frailties captured with effortless elegance.
We’re thrust straight into the action as the film opens with a young boy whose life of conflict and disobedience has resulted in him running away from the children’s home his father (Jeremie Renier) has abandoned him in. His name is Cyril (Thomas Doret), a troubled boy, wrestling with the hefty emotions evoked by the paternal rejection he’s currently dealing with. His escapades literally lands him in the arms of Samantha (Cecile de France) a caring hairdresser who, despite her lack of experience with children, inexplicably decides to foster this rebellious adolescent over weekends. She takes on the responsibility of both caring for Cyril, whilst also assisting him in his attempts to discover the ware bouts of his wayward father. However, Cyril’s determination soon becomes an insurmountable barrier, blinding him to the compassionate charity of Samantha, whilst his subconscious need for a father figure leads him into a destructive friendship with a neighbourhood troublemaker.
Opening with a tense encounter between Cyril and one of his guidance councillors, The Kid with a Bike, never stops for breath, only sporadically enlightening us with plot illuminating conversations. Much like Cyril searching for his runaway father, the audience is also encouraged to pursue its own investigation into the events which unfold. The Dardenne brothers do however assist the viewer, with a modest, yet emotive score which is used sparingly and only to enhance the important changes in Cyril’s life – revealing the moments of heightened emotions he chooses to hide behind a stubborn facade.
Cyril’s father (played by Dardennes regular Jérémie Renier) is never judged for his abhorrent rejection of his son. Indeed, the Dardenne’s shine an impartial light onto all their characters. Each is captured as completely human – flawed but riddled with emotions and their own internal conflict. It’s this ability to encapsulate the fragile side of human nature which makes the Dardenne’s films so simple to love. The ambiguity behind their character’s thoughts adds a degree of intrigue to the events which unfold; however, we’re never in any doubt why they perform them, with the audience constantly caught up in a whirlwind of emotions of these incredibly frail characters.
Doret’s performance as the film’s tragically orphaned protagonist is a joy to behold, displaying a deeply focused, yet subtly fragile demeanour which draws the audience into his world of rejection. His abundance of energy (fuelled by the deep-seated anger the emotionally crippling rejection he’s encountered has evoked) drives the film forward with an electrifying pace. Gripping and at times genuinely heartbreaking, his frantic search for the paternal love he so greatly desires creates a mesmerizing and at times, harrowing experience.
The Kid with a Bike is not just an impassioned examination of the devastation paternal rejection can create but also a gloriously loving snapshot of life. Even the film’s titular bike is a metaphor for the constant transitions in life Cyril goes through, with it only being towards the end of the final act (when we witness him share a leisurely bike ride with Samantha) that we finally feel safe in the knowledge he’s found somebody who can keep his life on course. This subtle symbolism is just one of the many facets which make The Kid with a Bike, such a resounding success, once again showcasing the talent of the Dardenne’s to imitate the gritty realism of life on screen whilst also creating something profoundly beautiful.
Director(s): Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne
Cast: Thomas Doret,Cecile de France,Jeremie Renier,Fabrizio Rongione
Runtime: 87 min
Country: Belgium, France, Italy