The Kid With A Bike

The Kid With A Bike

Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Artificial Eye

Release date: March 23rd, 2012
Certificate (UK): 12A
Running time: 87 minutes

Country of origin: Belgium/France
Original language: French with English subtitles

Writers and directors: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

Cast: Thomas Doret, Cécile De France

When I was a little boy I remember having a red bicycle. It wasn’t a particularly fancy bike or anything like that; once the training wheels came off and I was confident enough about riding on two wheels, we were inseparable. I’d ride for hours on end every evening after school and on the weekends, embarking on journeys of self discovery and daredevil exploration.

The only thing was… I never actually left the safety of our front and back yard because my parents were too anxious about me riding on the street!

The Kid With A Bike

This sheltered childhood of mine meant I never got to experience things like cuts, scrapes, bruises or even those little fights other kids always seem to get into. Because I rarely left the sight of my parents as a child, the chances of something happening to me like it does to 12-year-old Cyril (Thomas Doret) in The Kid With A Bike were slim to virtually none.

After being abandoned by his father, who simply up and leaves while he’s out riding his bike, Cyril turns to Samantha (Cécile De France), a stranger who helps him recover it when it’s stolen. He’s put into foster care but continues to search for his father and is unwilling to accept that he could have just abandoned him like that, believing instead that something else must have happened to him.

Cyril goes to every place he can think of to find out if anyone’s seen his father, and after fending off another bicycle thief, he still has no success. When he sees an advert in the window of a petrol station, handwritten by his father, to sell his bike, he realises that it wasn’t stolen the first time and goes back to Samantha to ask if she can contact the man she bought it back from.

The Kid With A Bike

As The Kid With A Bike takes us through this journey with Cyril to find out what really happened to his father and why he left him, there are also strong hints of Vittorio De Sica’s neorealist classic Bicycle Thieves (1948), especially in the way we see him faced with the cold harshness of a world where people are always ready and willing to take what is yours.

Later on we find him lured into street-robbing by a gang leader and it’s here we see him making bad choices under difficult situations. At this point I got a sense of the Dardenne brothers giving a nod to Ken Loach’s Kes (1969), another realist drama that delivers a look at the working class. The choices we see Cyril making here somewhat mirror those of Billy’s (David Bradley).

And it doesn’t end there either. You can also easily draw parallels with Cyril and Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) in François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows (1949). All four films share in that delicate balance of innocence and growing up, arriving at that moment when we see they are no longer children.

The Kid With A Bike

The Kid With A Bike gives us a wonderful piece of modern realist cinema with a story that makes you feel for its characters every step of the way.

The performances are terrific, Cécile De France brings a mothering quality to her role of Samantha that’s also restrained, Cyril is not her son and though she wants to help him she is also aware of the responsibilities that come with taking him in. The film truly belongs to Thomas Doret though, he tells so much with his eyes and even when he says nothing there is so much in the way he moves.

While I’ve seen many films that hark back to a certain time of storytelling they often fall into the trap of failing to be engaging enough as a contemporary piece of cinema. This is clearly not the case with The Kid With A Bike as it transcends those barriers to communicate something real, affecting and lasting as Kes, The 400 Blows and Bicycle Thieves.

About Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.