Movie review: The Kid With A Bike (+trailer)

By Peter Calder

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Cecile de France and THomas Doret in The Kid with a Bike. Photo / Supplied
Cecile de France and THomas Doret in The Kid with a Bike. Photo / Supplied

Members of an exclusive club of directors who have twice won Cannes' supreme prize, the Palme d'Or (for Rosetta in 1999 and The Son in 2005), the Belgian Dardenne brothers are in the front rank of modern social realist film-makers, outpacing even the evergreen Ken Loach in the assured handling of complex material.

Their newest film (characteristically about the predicament of a child in an adults' world) was also a Cannes laureate - it shared the Grand Prix, the film's second prize. It may lack the almost biblical moral density of the other two, but it is a compact and compelling drama that is ultimately a testament to the goodness of the human spirit.

The title's kid is Cyril (an astonishingly focused Doret), whom we meet when he's trying to escape from a boys' home where he's living after being abandoned by his father (Renier, a Dardenne regular).

He refuses to accept the "number disconnected" message he gets when he calls, so he goes looking and discovers their flat empty and - what's worse - that Dad sold his prized bicycle to cover debts.

By chance, he develops a relationship with Samantha (de France), a good-hearted village hairdresser, who restores to him his bike and a sense that, just possibly, the whole world is not against him. But the malign influence of Wes (Di Mateo), a local petty hood, soon exerts itself.

Doret's frighteningly forceful performance drives this short, intense and powerful film - at times almost literally it seems; he's mostly seen pedalling like fury, as if he can outrun the past.

The loss of his dad has made him preternaturally mature, but the broken, hurt kid is constantly visible just below the surface. As the compact and sadly plausible scenario bowls along to its unexpected conclusion, it's hard not to develop a great fondness for him.

The Dardennes are plainly at home shooting in their native town (and de France grew up just down the road), giving the film an unforced and almost contemplative tone. It's another quiet triumph for two of the best European directors working today.

Stars: 4/5
Cast: Cecile de France, Thomas Doret, Jeremie Renier, Egon Di Mateo
Directors: Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne
Running time: 87 mins
Rating: M (offensive language) In French with English subtitles
Verdict: Quiet but intense domestic drama


- NZ Herald

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