Chicago International Film Festival 2011
The Kid with a Bike
Directed by: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne Cast: Thomas Doret, Cecile De France, Egon Di Mateo Running Time: 1 hr 28 mins Rating: NR Release Date: TBD
PLOT: A conflicted young boy (Doret) is put under the weekend foster care of a hairdresser (De France) after his father declares he never wants to see him again.
WHO'S IT FOR?: Fans of patient dramas; those who liked De France in Hereafter, and are curious to see what else she can do. Those particularly interested in stories about youth, and youth being in danger.
Placed into the film footsteps of now classic movies like Cinema Paradiso and Oldboy,The Kid with a Bike was awarded the "Grand Prix" (AKA second place) at the most recent Cannes Film Festival. While The Kid with a Bike may not be as outwardly incredible as those aforementioned films and some others from "Grand Prix" history, it's still a strong piece of foreign cinema.
Newcomer Thomas Doret plays the ferociously eager Cyril, a young boy placed in a foster home for what he is told will be a short amount of time. His attempts to call his father's apartment are in vain - he moved out long ago. Cyril is also looking for his bike, which he is sure was stolen from his father (in reality, his father sold it). Cyril's passion for his two goals has him sneaking out of his foster home premises, sometimes like a caged animal trying to break free. When Cyril goes to his father's apartment building, he literally runs into Samantha, a hairdresser (played by Cecile de France from Hereafter). Hearing Cyril's adamant yet hopeless plight, she buys Cyril's bike back from a neighborhood boy, and signs up to be his caretaker on weekends. While under the care of Samantha, Cyril has a shattering meeting with his father, and later on starts a life-changing friendship with a petty gang leader.
Doret is a pleasant surprise as Cyril, immediately involving audiences into his highly sympathetic presence as someone so ruthlessly devoted to whatever or whoever makes him happy. He's practically in every shot of the film, and we never get tired of him. De France is just as moving as the woman trying to control Cyril. Yet even with both performances, the movie doesn't make us emotional. It just has us yearning for a happy ending as the Dardenne Bros. tell parents about the influence of their presence (or lack thereof) in their children's lives.
The Kid with a Bike creates an addictive sense of realism with gorgeous long takes that play on breathlessly without any sense of immediate showmanship. Whereas some of the most revered long shots in film history can't escape their obvious mechanics, and reek of over-plotting, the Dardennes Brothers prefer a less flashier style here, but one that is just as cohesive and involving as anything Paul Thomas Anderson might be praised for from Boogie Nights, Magnolia, etc. The cinematography of The Kid with a Bike is stunning in its own right, without having to tell audiences it wants to dazzle them. Even when the camera sprints with two gliding tracking shots, following Cyril as he passionately rides his bike, the beauty is pure. Experiencing the movie's cinematography is worth a viewing of The Kid with a Bike alone.
With such realism,The Kid with a Bike lets its story play out; essentially, this film breathes. However, nothing is drawn out, or feels useless. The only possible problem with pacing is that the movie always has a heavy level of uncertainty - you're not sure when Cyril's saga is going to end, or how. This can sometimes make Bike drag a bit, but the movie is not without its tense moments. It absolutely has tense moments when Cyril's desperation to belong feels like it's leading him into horrible danger.
The Kid with a Bike is more impressive than emotional as it hugely involves the audience with its seemingly simple nature. It's probably worthy of its "Grand Prix" praise, but certainly worth a look.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10