The Kid with a Bike

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s The Kid with a Bike received the Grand Prix, the second highest award at the Cannes Film Festival. It is similar to Truffaut’s The 400 Blows in that it is about a child confronting a cold and brutal world, although its story is less harsh than Truffaut’s masterpiece.

Cyril (Thomas Doret) is a twelve-year-old boy whose father (Jérémie Renier) places him in foster care and then disappears. Cyril can’t believe that his father would leave him. He escapes and goes to his father’s apartment, but he finds it empty. Cyril also learns that his father sold his bicycle. By chance, he meets Samantha (Cécile de France), who is moved when she learns of Cyril’s predicament. She finds the bicycle and buys it, then she returns it to Cyril. He asks her if she will take him in on weekends, and she agrees. Samantha helps Cyril look for his father. They eventually find him working as a cook in a restaurant. He tells Cyril that he never wants to see him again. Cyril is emotionally crushed, but Samantha comforts him.

One day Cyril’s bicycle is stolen by a boy who is a gang member. Cyril pursues him to the gang’s hideout and fights him with him. The gang’s leader, Wes (Egon Di Mateo), is impressed by Cyril’s fierceness. He gives Cyril his bicycle back and makes friends with him. He eventually persuades Cyril to carry out a violent robbery for him. Samantha becomes alarmed when she learns that Cyril is involved with Wes. The night the robbery is supposed to take place, Samantha forbids Cyril from going out. They get into a fight. Cyril cuts her with a knife and runs away. Cyril carries out the robbery, in which he injures two people with a baseball bat. He then goes to the restaurant where his father works and offers him the money he stole. He literally tries to buy his father’s love. His father rejects him once again. Cyril returns to Samantha and asks her forgiveness. She does so. She then takes him to the police, so he can take responsibility for his crime.

The Kid with a Bike is a well-made and moving film about a troubled child. My only criticism of the film is that we never really get a sense of what motivates Samantha. She is unwaveringly devoted to Cyril, even though he only causes problems for her. She seems almost too good to be true. Cyril, on the other hand, comes across as complex and believable. We sense the agony he feels at his father’s coldness.

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