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The Kid With A Bike
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2013
Format: Blu-ray
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
"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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2013
Format: Amazon Instant VideoVerified Purchase
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2013
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
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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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2012
Format: DVD
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Rating: 3.5

'The Kid with a Bike' was directed by the two French-speaking Dardenne brothers from Belgium. The film was shot in Belgium, in the town of Seraing, were the Dardennes held approximately 100 auditions and settled on an outstanding child actor neophyte, Thomas Doret, who plays the 10 year old protagonist, Cyril.

According to Wikipedia, the Dardenne brothers wanted to tell their story much like a fairy tale and chose not to develop many of the adult characters in the film. Hence, the portraits of the adults are quite sketchy. For example, we never find out much about Cyril's father except for the fact that he's broke and emotionally can't cope with the idea of taking care of a child. Similarly, Samantha, the hairdresser who adopts Cyril, doesn't have much of a back story and we mainly learn what she's about, vis-a-vis her relationship with the child.

While not without its problems, the film largely succeeds due to the performance of young Mr. Doret, in the role of Cyril. The film's scenarists make it quite clear how devastating it can be for a young child to be rejected by a parent. The first thirty minutes of the film chronicle Cyril's failed attempt to reunite with his father after he runs away from a youth facility which houses rejected children. Cyril won't accept that his father has moved out of the apartment and has abandoned him. Through his tenacity he tracks him down but the father won't be honest with his son that he has no intention of seeing him again. With Samantha's intervention, the father finally tells Cyril the truth. The reaction is predictable: self-destructive, acting out behavior on the part of the rejected child.

There's a great scene of a portent of things to come when Cyril begins banging his head inside the car and Samantha must stop him. Later, Cyril runs away from home, not before stabbing Samantha, who is at a loss how to handle the out of control child. Cyril eventually ends up in the hands of a criminal, a local drug addict, who teaches him how to rob people. Cyril actually ends up assaulting a father and son with a baseball bat and knocks them out cold. The criminal tells Cyril to get lost but gives him some proceeds from the robbery which Cyril promptly brings to his father with the plan to help him. The father doesn't want to get in trouble and throws the money away and tells Cyril to get lost.

Now having been rejected by his drug addict mentor, and a second time by his father, Cyril returns to Samantha and begs her forgiveness. But first he's forced to apologize to his victims in family court (the father accepts Cyril's apology but the son refuses to meet with the 10 year old). The court hearing is resolved when Samantha agrees to pay restitution to the father and son, for their medical treatment.

The main part of the plot that feels contrived is the climax where the younger victim of Cyril's assault chases Cyril into a forested area. The boy throws a rock at Cyril, striking him and causing him to fall to the ground after he climbed up a tree. At first, it appears that Cyril has been killed due to the fall but miraculously regains consciousness, and then stoically pedals away on his bike. My problem with that whole scene is that I couldn't believe that the father (the victim of Cyril's bat attack) wouldn't prevent his son from going after Cyril, especially with the full knowledge that the boy did not accept the younger Cyril's apology (by not showing up at the Family Court hearing) and was so angry at him, that there was the possibility that he might resort to violence.

In addition to the aforementioned sketchy characterizations, 'The Kid With a Bike' makes awkward use of a short passage from a Beethoven Piano Concerto whenever the directors seek to highlight an emotional scene. It's always the same, repetitious musical passage, which doesn't feel organically integrated into those particular scenes which require particular emotional emphasis.

'The Kid With a Bike' still manages to be fairly absorbing as the Dardenne brothers ably depict the psychology of a young boy, who goes through stages of grief due to the rejection by a parent. In this particular case, Samantha's love turns the boy in a positive direction and after all the angst, it's nice to experience the heart-felt, happy ending.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
In all likelihood, you probably haven't seen a film made the Dardenne Brothers, two Belgium filmmakers who consistently make films that earn raves and kudos at Cannes, the annual film festival held in the South of France. These raves and kudos propel their films into very limited release in the United States.

Their films follow two or three characters, usually living at the edge of or in dire poverty, as they deal with a small slice of their lives. Because the filmmakers concentrate the narrative on a small group of people and a small part of their lives, they are able to give us great insight into these characters, their actions and their motivations, making them very real.

Generally, I shy away from or downright dislike films with no narrative or an overt "Cinema Verite" style. And if the Dardenne Brothers' films can be labeled anything, it is "Cinema Verite". Their handheld camera weaves in and out of the confined living spaces, in and out of compact cars, watching the characters as they react or talk and then the camera jumps to the other person after they begin talking. This style of filmmaking is designed to give us the feeling we are eavesdropping, or spying. And by extension, this is supposed to make us feel like we are a part of the character's lives. If done well, it does create a heightened sense of intimacy. You feel the rawness of the emotion and the acting. If it isn't done right, the technique simply calls attention to itself. The Dardenne Brothers are masters of this filmmaking device, making us feel an intimacy with their characters most filmmakers are unable to achieve.

Cyril (Thomas Doret), a pre-teen who loves to ride his bike, has been abandoned by his father and now lives in a youth farm. He acts out, fights, and bites the counselors, because he is unable to believe his father moved away without leaving a forwarding address. Also, what happened to his bike? He tries to run away, only to be captured by the counselors again and again. Finally, he makes it back to his apartment building and manages to sneak in to his old home, only to find it empty and abandoned, just as everyone told him. When the counselors show up, they chase him through the building and Cyril literally latches onto Samantha (Cecile de France, "Hereafter"), the local hairdresser, and refuses to let go. A few days later, she shows up at the youth farm with Cyril's bike - she bought it from the kid who bought it from Cyril's father. And she agrees to take him on the weekends. He seems to be a lot happier with her, but also acts out because he wants to find his father. Samantha agrees to help find him and they eventually find the restaurant where he works. Guy (Jeremie Renier, "Potiche", "L'Enfant", "La Promesse") looks at his son with a scary detachment and asks Samantha to not bring him around anymore. Now that Cyril has heard this for himself, he acts out a bit more and then calms down, a bit. Riding his bike, he meets a young drug dealer who becomes a major influence on Cyril's life.

"Kid" is an interesting look at a young boy who lashes out against just about everyone. And he has every right to this behavior; his dad basically abandons him because he can't handle the responsibility, so he is sent to a youth farm. The farm doesn't seem to be a terrible place, it isn't home, but it isn't a Dicken's orphanage either; the staff seem to care about and take care of the kids. But Cyril has to see everything for himself. He can't take the word of others that his father has abandoned him. Who could? And when he sees the evidence for himself, you can see his heart break, which is quickly covered up by is young resolve.

Then when Cyril meets Samantha there seems to be a little glimmer of hope for him. She cares for and takes responsibility for him. She gives him a cell phone to use when he is visiting, so she can keep track of him and he can keep her updated about his activities. As a hairdresser, she has to work on Saturday, but her salon is downstairs, so it all seems to work out and they seem to be on their way to establishing a family life.

But Cyril has a long way to go before his behavior begins to change due to Samantha's influence. Too many years of Guy's neglect have left Cyril with the impression he has to fend for himself and he is a young boy, both of which explain his desire to be friends with the only slightly older drug dealer who entices him with video games and soda. The drug dealer quickly asks Cyril for help and he quickly agrees to help.

All of the actors are very good and help to establish and maintain the feel of Cinema Verite. For an actor, the key to this technique is to appear as natural as possible. Thomas Doret is very young and this is his first film credit. When an actor makes such an impression in their first film role, playing a character who seems so real, you have to wonder if they are acting at all or if they are simply channeling their own experience. I'm not sure, but Doret seems completely natural. Cyril is pretty street wise in many ways and completely unaware in many others making him seem like the young boy he is.

Cecile de France, who is most well-known for her role as the French reporter in Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter", is also quite good. In fact, she is far better in this film than in her big Hollywood debut. You get the sense she is juggling a lot in her life. When Cyril first meets her, she is waiting for a doctor's appointment and seems resigned and exhausted, yet this is all she has ever known, so she is used to it and deals with it. When Cyril enters her life, she welcomes him and recognizes he has many significant problems. Maybe she experienced some of the same things growing up and she can identify.

Jeremie Renier, who has appeared in many of the Dardenne Brothers' films, plays Guy, the dad who abandons Cyril. It is a brief role, almost a cameo, but completely convincing and adds a lot to the overall fabric of the story.

Is "The Kid With a Bike" the best film I have ever seen? No. It isn't even the best Dardenne Brothers film. The scope of the narrative seems slightly too confined. But is emotional and powerful and very convincing.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 28, 2013
Format: Blu-rayVerified Purchase
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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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2013
Format: Blu-ray
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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