Friday, March 23, 2012


The Kid with a Bike (Le Gamin au vélo)

The Kid with a Bike A restless, stubborn, fierce looking 11-year-old boy in a bright red shirt is determined to find his father and get his bicycle back. That's the beginning of a terrific film "The Kid with a Bike" (Le Gamin au vélo | Belgium/France 2011 | in French | 87 min.).

It's the latest fine work from Belgian auteurs Dardenne brothers: Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne. The film well deserves the honor as the recipient of the Grand Prix award (Grand Jury Prize) at 2011 Cannes Film Festival.

The boy is Cyril (Thomas Doret), who is placed in an orphanage after his dad (Jérémie Renier) abandons him. But Cyril doesn't believe or simply refuse to accept that's the case.

When the reality finally sinks in, Cyril seeks shelter from a hairdresser Samantha (Cécile De France) whom he meets by accident. Despite Cyril's troubling and rebelling behavior in responding to his father's rejection, Samantha patiently treats Cyril with kindness and love, and shows some hope to Cyril's future.

Will that be sufficient to tame Cyril?

As Dardenne brothers' previous films, this new film is observant, captivating, and character driven. Once again, they brilliantly tell a heartbreaking story about a child involved in a family relationship. Although, this time they seem softer on challenging the moral and social consciousness faced by the characters (as well as the audience) compared to their early work such as "The Son" (Le fils) and "The Child" (L'enfant). However, I don't think that affects the excellence of the film.

Thomas Doret in THE KID WITH A BIKE. Photo credit: Christine Plenus.  A Sundance Selects release.

The film also doesn't always explain the motivation or reasoning for its characters' every behavior. It simply closely follows the dynamic story unfold by the almost flawless performance from the lead casts.

If this were a Korean drama, Samantha would have been Cyril's birth mother that would be revealed in the end. Not in this film. Samantha simply says yes when Cyril wants her to be his foster parent on Sundays. And the rest becomes this film.

Since normally there is no music in Dardenne brothers' films, I am surprised to hear that Beethoven's Emperor Concerto sounds off for four times, very briefly on each occasion. Yet, each time the music score effectively enhances the story telling and expresses Cyril's profound emotion.

If I had encountered an 11-year-old like Cyril, I probably would have given up on him very quickly.

Now, I am not sure.

"The Kid with a Bike," a Sundance Selects release, opens on Friday, March 23, 2012 at Bay Area theaters.

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