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Friday, 13 April 2012 00:00

'The Kid with a Bike' Rides Right into Your Heart

'The Kid with a Bike' Rides Right into Your Heart csmonitor.com
Written by Diane Carson
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About this Media...

  • Director: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
  • Dates: Opens April 13, 2012

The Belgian Dardennes brothers, Luc and Jean-Pierre, have a keen interest in, and insight into, troubled girls and boys peripheral to mainstream society. These writer/directors of Rosetta, The Child and The Son pursue their unsentimental but immensely humane approach with The Kid with a Bike. The story centers on 11-year-old Cyril, left in a children's home by Guy, his father.

Desperate to reunite with Guy, Cyril refuses to believe he's been abandoned. Like the angry inmate he considers himself, Cyril breaks out and races, literally races, to find Guy in their last apartment with authorities in pursuit.

The Kid with a Bike is a curious and marvelous hybrid. With the Dardennes' unobtrusive cinematography, it feels like a nonfiction film though it unfolds like a fantasy. In fact, at last year's Cannes press conference after the film's premiere, finishing each other's sentences, the Dardennes said they almost called the film A Modern Fairy Tale. And despite Cyril's single-minded ferocity, he does luck out when he desperately, literally grabs hold of and hangs on to local beauty shop owner Samantha. Kind-hearted and indulgent, Samantha's compassionate acceptance of Cyril will change her life as much as his, but it isn't easy sailing when local bully Wes, the big bad wolf of this fable, decides to take advantage of Cyril's rebelliousness and neediness.

The Dardennes' film has beautiful sunlight and enormous energy with the boy racing on foot and on his bike, running from his demons as much as to destinations. It depends on pitch-perfect verbal and nonverbal performances, and the actors deliver. Newcomer Thomas Douret doesn't play Cyril; he IS Cyril. As Samantha, Cécile De France lights up the screen as much as the boy's life, but she has an appealing, necessary assertiveness that complements her compassion. This film of redemption through love reminds us, as Jean-Pierre said, that "we adults get so swept up in our own world." It's inspirational to thrill to a film that remedies that.

The Kid with a Bike won the Grand Jury Prize at last year's Cannes Film Festival and the European Film Awards Best Screenplay. It was nominated as Best Foreign Film for the Golden Globes, among numerous other nominations. In French with English subtitles. At a Landmark Theatre.

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