Saturday, 24 March 2012

Review - The Kid with a bike (2011 - Dir. Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne)

I like horror films. That may not come as that much of a surprise to you. Most of them are completely unrealistic and rather than being horrific are just funny. They are pure escapism. Then I watch a film like The Kid with a bike and it is so realistic, worrying and bleak that I realise that if I want to be scared and horrified I should be watching dramas based on real-life. Not my cup of tea, really.

Cyril (Thomas Doret) lives in a children's home. His father has left his apartment without leaving a forwarding address. All the lad wants is contact with his dad. And his bike. Like many children, there's nothing he likes better than haring about on his bike. (In the British remake, set in Rotherham, his bike will be four sizes too small for him and he'll bomb around busy roundabouts causing mayhem, giving a berzerk looking dog a coggy.) 

Eventually, he meets a hairdresser, Samantha (Cécile De France - Switchblade Romance), who takes him in and looks after him at weekends. Things take a turn for the worst when he meets a dubious local bad lad. Thomas Doret is so natural in his role as Cyril, and although he seems outwardly strong, you can see always see how vulnerable he is. And how easy it is for people to take advantage of this. His acting is pure quality. He bites, he kicks, he breaks down, he cries and he shows a tender, relaxed side, all with equal ease. Without him the film wouldn't have reached the level of realism it was striving for.

Although it is set in France, you can easily transpose all of the characters to the UK. It reminds you how easily young people can be exploited. Fortunately, it isn't completely bleak. There is a little rayette of sunshine. The film pushes you to think, 'Why doesn't Samantha send him back to the home, the ungrateful little tinker?'. Thankfully, it pulls you back from this generally unpleasant view by the end.

So, it's not the type of film I'd usually watch and I'm not sure that I liked it. But it is a good film and many people would enjoy it, if only for Thomas Doret's central performance.

If you liked this you could also try:
I've Loved You So Long, This is England.


  1. Sounds a bit on the gritty side. If set in Rotherham, surely he'd be riding a quad bike sans helmet?

  2. It's not gritty at all really. A Kid with a quad bike is the sequel. The final film in the trilogy is A KId with a can of Special Brew and a rifle. (NB actually seen by evlkeith on the streets of Rotherham. I said real-life is scarier than horror films.)

  3. on a serious note, I thought a kid with a bike captured childhood very well. I hadn't had that feeling of being in a child's shoes since I watched 80s classics such as The Goonies or Stand by me. I suppose must be the realism you mention in your review