THE KID WITH A BIKE – The Review
A young boy who longs to be reunited with the father who abandoned him falls in with the wrong element in THE KID WITH A BIKE a new French-language drama from Belgian writer/director brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. The new film has their trademark style using available light and a handheld camera seems to simply observe events as they unfold, as if the film makers have just happen to have stopped to film what’s going on. It’s a candid tone sorely missed in Hollywood’s noisy style of movies but the story lacks interest and on balance, THE KID WITH A BIKE is a snooze
THE KID WITH A BIKE opens with 11-year-old Cyril living at a state-run orphanage, trying to understand what happened to his father, who disappeared from his life without saying goodbye. Cyril figures his dad, no matter how much a deadbeat, wouldn’t have left voluntarily because he at least would have given his son the lad’s bike, which is missing. After a repetitive series of scenes in which Cyril desperately searches for his father, he finally learns that he sold the bike, which is bought back for him by Samantha, a kindly hairdresser (Cécile de France) who wants to be Cyril’s proxy parent. Meanwhile, Cyril falls in with a neighborhood thug who acts as a surrogate father figure and convinces the boy to commit a violent crime for his approval.
THE KID WITH A BIKE is a mildly effective, Dickensian look at a youth in crisis and has something to say about the innocence of children and their capacity for good in the corrupting world of adults. There’s nothing terribly wrong with it, and you’d have to be a coldhearted cynic not to be moved by Cyril’s dilemma, but THE KID WITH A BIKE is bland and inoffensive to the point of offensiveness. The plot progress is steady but there’s little interest in probing characterization. It crawls along at an endless-seeming 87 minutes and is paced in a way that I found myself asking questions. Why is this kid was so obsessed with finding a dad who obviously wants nothing to do with him? Why is this attractive woman so determined to embrace Cyril, who’s a little brat, to her, at least in their initial meeting? When is something interesting going to happen? The movie does have moments of drama, such as a scene where Cyril is clinging to Samantha’s legs in a doctor’s waiting room, but between those moments lay huge blank, boring segments. The performances are likeable, especially Ms de France (so good in last year’s NISRENE) as a woman who seems to embody goodness in a situation where it’s most needed. Thomas Doret plays Cyril in a manner critics love to describe as “naturalistic”, which is a polite way to describe him as blank and unemotive. To me the kid exuded an air of disinterested boredom which is how I felt while watching him. I’m not normally an impatient moviegoer – I enjoy a well-told story that slowly builds to an interesting, thought-provoking, or moving conclusion, but THE KID WITH A BIKE simply never delivered.
Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
THE KID WITH A BIKE opens in St. Louis today at Landmark’s Tivoli Theater