Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: The Kid with a Bike (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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on January 23, 2013
If you're looking for a real and honest portrayal of what it's like to be a child or an adolescent on film, you really have to step outside of the US. There's something about the typical American portrayal of kids that never really reaches for anything profound. Three benchmark examples come to mind of non-American portrayals or youth. The first is Francois Truffaut's The 400 Blows, the second is Luis Bunuel's Los Olvidados, and the third is Edward Yang's Yi Yi. THe Dardennes Brothers The Kid With a Bike isn't quite in the league of those films, it's a worthy successor and a fine film in it's own right.

The film focuses on a child named Cyril, played by Thomas Doret. Cyril has been all but abandoned by his father Guy, who is neither financially or emotionally able to care for Cyril. Cyril is living in what appears to be a group home, and he frequently acts out and tries to contact his father. He's mostly rebuked by his father, but a chance encounter with a hairdresser named Samantha, played by Cecile De France, leads to Samantha all but adopting Cyril. It's not an easy transition for the Cyril, who yearns for his father, or any father figure, and eventually falls in with bad crowd.

The Kid with the Bike is about the yearning for a father figure. Cyril's actually father Guy completely rejects him. He's either too emotionally immature or financially unstable to support Cyril. It's likely a combination of both. Samantha's boyfriend, on the otherhand, is completely rejected by Cyril. He seems like a pale reflection of a father figure to him. Eventually Cyril finds a surrogate father in Wes, a young hood who recruits young kids to help him in his various criminal endeavors. This ultimately leads to disappointment as well, as Wes is nothing more than a common hood who feels nothing for Cyril.

So this brings Cyril back to Samantha, the woman who cares for him almost unconditionally. She forsakes the relationship with her boyfriend when he makes her chose between him and Cyril. He choses Cyril. Samantha may not be the father he's looking for, she is there for him and provides the nurturing of a mother.

The ending scene is the only aspect of the film that breaks with the low key nature of the film. I don't want to spoil the ending, but it didn't feel quite as organic as the rest of the film.

If you're a fan of movies like the 400 Blows and Los Olvidados then you'll probably find a lot to like in the Kid with a Bike. If you enjoy low key slice of life dramas then you'll probably like this as well. It's not a perfect film or an out and out classic, but it's an enjoyable and well realized portrayal of a troubled youth.
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The Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne directed an outstanding movie in 2005 called "The Child" ("L'enfant) which brought widespread critical and in French-speaking Europe also commercial acclaim. Now comes the latest movie from these guys.

"The Kid With a Bike" (Le Gamin au Velo) (2011 from Belgium; 87 min.) brings the story of 11 yr. old Cyril who lives in a youth center. Cyril cannot accept that his father seemingly has abandoned him, and in the first part of the movie we see Cyril trying to run away to find out where his dad is. It becomes clear that the dad indeed is no longer wanting to be involved in Cyril's life. By happenstance, Cyril meets Samantha, a hairdresser who agrees to become a foster parent just on the weekends. Cyril also befriends Wes, a no-good older kid who talks Cyril into robbing a newspaper carrier. I don't want to spoil the plot any further, you'll just have to see how it all plays out. But suffice to say that there were a number of scenes during which the theatre audience loudly gasped and moaned.

This movie is another outstanding "slice of life" as brought by the bothers Dardenne. No, there are no major "action" scenes or special effects. Just observing ordinary people in not always ordinary situations. Special mention must go to the young Belgian actor Thomas Doret, who is simply outstanding as Cyril, and also to Cecile de France (who, despite her last name, is also Belgian), in the role of Samantha. Incidentally, the movie was filmed in the Walloon city of Seraing (near Liege), where the brothers Dardenne hail from. "Le Gamin au Velo" made a major splash at the 2011 Cannes film festival, where it won the "Grand PRix". I can't help but notice that this is yet another strong movie from Belgium, on the heels of the Oscar-nominated "Bullhead". If you are in the mood for a good foreign movie, I readily recommend "Le Gamin au Velo".
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"Le gamin au vélo," an unrated drama from Belgium (English subtitles), is about an eleven-year old boy, abandoned by his father at a local youth farm (orphanage). Nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Golden Globes, it is also winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes (2011), Best Screenwriter at the European Film Awards and Best Director at the Flaiano International Prizes. I noticed in particular how few cuts there were in each scene. Amazing! I will study this more closely when Amazon.com releases the Region 1 version on DVD.

We watch our determined young protagonist break away from his keepers and set out in quest of his absent father AND his missing bicycle. His quest crosses the path of a town hairdresser who, for some never-disclosed reason, offers to foster him on weekends; an act of kindness she quickly comes to regret. This boy is hurt, defiant, and rebellious. He is convinced his father would never leave him, nor would he take away his bike, so the only way for our little guy to learn this sad lesson is in a face-to-face confrontation.

This cast is excellent, these two leads in particular:
* Thomas Doret (impressive in his first role) is Cyril, frightened and bewildered by his father's selfish actions. This kid is always running, pedaling, climbing or fighting. At times he is so irritating I want to shake him!
* Cécile De France ("Avenue Montaigne") is Samantha, the ultra-patient hairdresser, willing to stand by our little rascal, even when he isn't very lovable. Physically, she is barely strong enough to cope with our wiry rebel.

As the story unfolds, we in the Seattle International Film Festival audience never move. We see things about other characters that our young hero is too immature to understand, so we hold our collective breath. We see that the good people are really good, while the bad people are equally bad, and we keep our fingers crossed for this confused youngster as he works his way through his pain.

As the film ends I feel good about Man's humanity to Man.
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on May 16, 2013
First of all, the "subtitle" menu is confusing. When it says "Subtitles off" it means the subtitles are actually ON and it is actually asking you if you want to turn it off. At first I thought I had a faulty DVD that would not play subtitles. However, when I went back and changed it to Subtitles OFF, the subtitles came on.

The Kid with a Bike is not an action movie. However, it deeply makes you realize the impact parents have on their children when abandoning them. The movie lets viewers see the change in increments, until it culminates with child's brutal realization that he is completely unwanted. I appreciate the psychological plot in this movie. In addition, this movie showed that there is so much more children need to learn in order to survive, besides accepting abandonment. And these are things that only a mentor can teach them.
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on March 7, 2013
With nothing but garbage on TV, I thought I'd try something from Amazon. We saw that this film got several Kudos, so we thought we'd give it a go. A boy shuffled into an orphanage want desperately to be reunited with his father fights the system and life in his efforts to find his father. In a chance encounter, a young woman takes an interest in him, recovers his bike for him and ultimately agrees to take him as a foster parent on weekends. The rest of the film deals with the boy struggling with his past and new relationships including that with the young woman. A very powerful story about abandonment, love and compassion.
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The Kid with a Bike is a heartbreaking and ultimately uplifting film from directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. The film centers on Cyril, a young boy who lives in a group home. Cyril and his bicycle travel through three competing definitions of family as the boy searches for a working definition of family. Cyril and his bike travel between a deadbeat father, Suzanne--a loving foster mother, and a petty thug.

The plot unfolds with Cyril unable to psychologically cope with abandonment and the love offered by his foster family. This mental crisis is brilliantly played and gut-wrenching to watch. The most emotionally devastating moment of the film is the slow dawning realization of Cyril's total abandonment by his biological father. These scenes are truly powerful.

The Dardenne directors use a conscious minimalism for the film. The adult characters are only sparingly developed, there are only brief instances of music. It creates the feeling that we are experiencing the world through Cyril's understanding.

The Criterion Collection edition features:
---New 2K digital transfer, supervised by director of photography Alain Marcoen, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
---New conversation between film critic Kent Jones and directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
---Interview with actor Cécile de France
---New interview with actor Thomas Doret
---Return to Seraing, a half-hour documentary in which the Dardennes revisit five locations from the film
---Trailer
---PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Geoff Andrew
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The Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne directed an outstanding movie in 2005 called "The Child" ("L'enfant) which brought widespread critical and in French-speaking Europe also commercial acclaim. Now comes the latest movie from these guys.

"The Kid With a Bike" (Le Gamin au Velo) (2011 from Belgium; 87 min.) brings the story of 11 yr. old Cyril who lives in a youth center. Cyril cannot accept that his father seemingly has abandoned him, and in the first part of the movie we see Cyril trying to run away to find out where his dad is. It becomes clear that the dad indeed is no longer wanting to be involved in Cyril's life. By happenstance, Cyril meets Samantha, a hairdresser who agrees to become a foster parent just on the weekends. Cyril also befriends Wes, a no-good older kid who talks Cyril into robbing a newspaper carrier. I don't want to spoil the plot any further, you'll just have to see how it all plays out. But suffice to say that there were a number of scenes during which the theatre audience loudly gasped and moaned.

This movie is another outstanding "slice of life" as brought by the bothers Dardenne. No, there are no major "action" scenes or special effects. Just observing ordinary people in not always ordinary situations. Special mention must go to the young Belgian actor Thomas Doret, who is simply outstanding as Cyril, and also to Cecile de France (who, despite her last name, is also Belgian), in the role of Samantha. Incidentally, the movie was filmed in the Walloon city of Seraing (near Liege), where the brothers Dardenne hail from. "Le Gamin au Velo" made a major splash at the 2011 Cannes film festival, where it won the "Grand PRix". I can't help but notice that this is yet another strong movie from Belgium, on the heels of the Oscar-nominated "Bullhead". If you are in the mood for a good foreign movie, I readily recommend "Le Gamin au Velo".
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on February 18, 2013
It seems that the best films about human nature, or real topics that actually matter, are made outside the Hollywood system. I suppose anguish and inner turmoil doesn't translate into an exciting viewing experience, or one that will encourage people to pay to see the film. I understand that equation, and it makes me respect filmmakers who attempt to bring to life these rarely shown topics.

The Kid with a Bike is one such film. It sits on the top row of my movie collection right next to Kes, and that's so appropriate. Both films are about childhood, and boys who do not have a loving family environment. Incidentally, both were made in Europe.

The title reminds me of The Bicycle Thief, and I found that to be one of the most touching and realistic portrayals of a father/son relationship. The Kid with a Bike is touching in a different way.

This review contains spoilers, and reveals a similar amount of information as the trailer. If you don't want to know anything else about the story, please stop reading now.

The film is about 11-year-old Cyril Catoul (Thomas Doret), who lives in a children's home. His mother isn't mentioned at any point in the story, and his father has abandoned him. The opening scenes show Cyril trying to come to terms with his situation. He doesn't believe that his father wouldn't want him, or that he would move out of his apartment without telling Cyril where he was going. Cyril is angry and aggressive, and only calms down a little when he's shown that his father's old apartment is truly empty.

During his struggles, he grabs hold of a woman. She's Samantha (Cécile De France), and wants to help. She locates the man who bought Cyril's bike from his father, and buys it back for him. He refuses to accept that his father would sell it, insisting that it must have been stolen. He barely remembers to thank Samantha for her kindness, but races after her and asks if he can stay with her on the weekends. She says that she will call the home and try to arrange it.

Cécile De France is not a stunning beauty, but she's an incredibly warm actress. If you saw her performance in Hereafter, you'll know what I mean. She has a way of making you believe that she is intelligent, sensitive, thoughtful, and caring. This ability makes her an excellent choice for the role. We are never told why Samantha lives alone, but it partly explains why she might find it important to help Cyril. Is she looking for the kind of love that a child might offer, or does she merely empathize with his plight, and is hoping to give him the kind of love that she didn't have as a child?

Cyril is hard to like for much of the film. He's often angry, deeply mistrustful of adults, and disobedient when he doesn't get exactly what he wants. Samantha manages to arrange a meeting with his father, and Cyril finally learns some difficult truths about the man. I connected with this part of the film because I never knew my own father. Luckily, I grew up in a loving environment with my mother and grandparents. My experiences helped me to understand anger, and the need to be as independent as possible. Cyril doesn't trust adults because he can't be sure they will be there for him when it matters.

One boy in the neighborhood is keen to befriend him, but Cyril is more drawn to an older boy who is suspected of dealing drugs. He's seemingly kind to Cyril, but we know that he's simply trying to gain trust, and that his true motives haven't yet been revealed. It works to some degree because Cyril responds to actions rather than promises.

This is a film about decisions. What are Samantha's reasons for trying to help him? What does his father really want? Should Cyril keep hoping for love that he may never have from his father, or settle for the love that is being offered by Samantha? Will he ever control his anger and become worthy of anyone's love?

The Dardenne brothers ask a lot of questions and provide very few answers, but the closing scene suggests that Cyril has learned something about life, and that his future might not be as bleak as his current existence.

The Criterion package is superb, and comes with a booklet, a great transfer, and more than two hours of special features. If you are interested in the Dardenne brothers, one interview lasts 74 minutes and reveals a lot about their methods.

The Kid with a Bike is not an easy film to watch, and the payoff is implied rather than shown. However, it's a strong, realistic portrayal of childhood, and the performances do it justice. If you like to contemplate life, it's worth your time.

Overall score 4.5/5
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on March 14, 2013
This award winning foreign film is one of the best films I have seen in the last 12 months. We have a frantic young boy, heart broken by his ne'er-do-well father and a wonderfully loving woman who eventually plays a major role in shaping this young boy's life. A must see.
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on January 19, 2014
A gut-wrenching tale of harsh reality colliding with childhood, “Kid with a Bike” presents a young boy who is abandoned by his neglectful father; the heartache comes from the fact that the boy still believes his father is a hero and attempts to reconcile with him at all costs, never accepting his father’s desertion, believing only that other people are keeping them apart.
Initially, the boy resolutely searches for his missing father and bicycle. Along the way he meets a warm woman who somehow feels his pain and his sincerity. After witnessing the father refuse any communication with the boy, she agrees to adopt him. Nevertheless, true to the maxim “There’s no rest for the weary” a neighborhood boy of poor reputation sucks the orphan-like kid in by lavishing him with almost patriarchal favors and attention. This scenario threatens his new-fangled peace with the woman who patiently cares for him despite his acting out. Only the viewer can see how the neighborhood boy wields friendship as a lever for crime. You’ll have to watch the rest to see how it resolves!
Poignant themes resound throughout of family vs. peers and anger vs. forgiveness while the ultimate question posed is: Can a broken child be mended?
Beautifully acted and the boy actor does a tremendous job characterizing how the detrimental seed of neglect grows inside youth. I highly recommend this movie to all who like to feel a character’s plight instead of just observe.
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