Photo Courtesy of IFC Films.
Throughout life, people learn to cope with betrayal and abandonment, but the aftermath can be particularly agonizing when the one who inflicts the pain is the very person who is supposed to guard you from it: your father.
Directed by brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, The Kid With a Bike (Le Gamin au Vélo) successfully balances themes of family expectations, unexpected sources of love, and the influence of friendship in a moving coming-of-age story about an 11-year-old boy left in a group home after his father abandons him.
A contrast of innocence and rebellion, Cyril (Thomas Doret) is determined to discover the reasons behind his father’s unexplained desertion. His anger-driven persistence exposes what he truly is: a big-eyed child who can’t comprehend why the person who should love him the most can’t even look at him during a confrontation.
Along his journey, he discovers love and friendship elsewhere, namely in 30-something hairdresser Samantha (Cécile De France), who he meets after she returns his missing bike, his most cherished possession. After some begging by Cyril, she takes him in on the weekends as a respite from the group home. However, Cyril fails to find a role model his own age and chooses to befriend an older teen boy — a gang member and suspected drug dealer whose dark, slick appearance is at odds with Doret’s glowing complexion and strawberry blonde hair.
The film tells its story with bright colors that often seem to contrast with the distressing situations that unfold. It shows the painful yet positive growing process of its main characters.
Ultimately, the audience is faced with the question: “How would I deal with this situation?” Shot in an almost documentary style,the film interweaves each character’s perspective, which creates a dynamic that showcases the logical reasoning for their actions. The movie engages the audience with moral questions. Should a boy be blamed for the physical harm of others in an attempt gain the male acceptance his father denied him? Is a young man allowed to be angry at society when he has to take care of his bedridden family member?
The emotional scenes are often supplemented with a wave of orchestral harmony. But the volume of such additions followed by abrupt, prolonged near-silence creates a distracting effect that disrupts the consistent flow of the rest of the movie.
The weight of the characters’ decisions, though, still manages to show. This filmconsiders the sacrifices loved ones can make, even when they have no obligation to do so. The Kid With a Bike serves as a beautifully told story about love, maturity, and forgiveness.