Movie Review: Kid with a Bike

The Dardenne Brothers have an extreme talent for telling stories that depict angst-ridden kids with sordid family problems. In “Kid With a Bike,” Cyril Catoul (Thomas Doret), an overly-anxious boy, tries desperately to find his father, Guy (Jeremie Renier). Renier appeared in the Brothers’ prior films, playing a young teenager in “La Promesse” (1996) and a young father in “The Child” (2005). In the film’s opening sequence, Cyril dials his father’s number from an orphanage phone. There is no answer, only a message that the number has been disconnected. The counselor tells Cyril that his father is gone.

Exasperated, Cyril refuses to accept his father’s fate, setting off a series of escape attempts.

Determined to see his father and retrieve his forgotten bicycle, Cyril’s final attempt successfully lands him at his father’s door. The boy finds himself in an empty apartment amidst memories of his past milieu. Cyril’s counselors and a hairdresser named Samantha (Cecile de France) finally catch him; Samantha goes on to become the boys foster-mother.

Samantha eventually tracks down Cyril’s bike and finds a way to contact his father. From this moment forward the bike and the boy become inseparable. The audience discovers at this time that Cyril’s father wants nothing to do with him either.

The film moves swiftly- Cyril is always moving; either running or biking form here to there. The camera is sharp, depicting scenes with an almost documentary-like feel to them. Classic Dardennes style is a lot of action with little dialogue. The Belgian duo started their careers filming documentaries and at times lack a bit of plot substance.

Cyril’s father is presented maybe three times in the whole movie. The closest person to Cyril turns out to be Samantha, and at times it seems as though the intensity of their relationship is lost.

The audience is not given an explanation as to why Samantha decided to foster Cyril, leaving too much room open for interpretation

There is not enough background to further develop Samantha’s character, and we are not presented with any information about Cyril’s father. Why did he abandon his boy? What did he do prior to giving Cyril up? What was their relationship like when Cyril lived with him? Who and where is Cyril’s mother?

When Cyril makes first contact with his father, he asks his father why he can’t look after him. His father’s excuse is that he is in the “merde,” meaning he can’t pay his bills or afford his own flat.

Possibly the Dardenne Brothers’ whole point is that if the father is not going to be present for Cyril, then why should he be present in the film at all?

Some climactic scenes throughout the film include Cyril going through a bunch of mishaps after the confrontation with his father. An encounter with a neighborhood thug sets Cyril up doing a crime for the brute. Cyril ends up assaulting a father and son, and when he tries to give the money from the robbery to his own father, he is turned away again.

There is enough action in this film to make it worthwhile. Doret portrays his role as Cyril very well, and up-stages his colleagues easily. Beware, the plot lacks depth and fails to provide you with any answers to the many questions you will surely have when you leave.