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With: Cécile De France, Thomas Doret, Jérémie Renier, Fabrizio Rongione, Egon Di Mateo, Olivier Gourmet
Written by: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Directed by: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 87
Date: 05/15/2011

The Kid with a Bike (2011)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Rose Pedals

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Dardenne brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc, return with their sixth international feature film, The Kid with a Bike. Using a grimly realistic style, the brothers are much-loved on the art-house and film festival circuit. This new one has snagged the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes, a Golden Globe nomination, an Independent Spirit Award nomination, and a César Award nomination. Yet to my eyes it seems like a fairly minor movie, although one with major emotional pull.

The kid of the title is Cyril (Thomas Doret), an 11 year-old living in a boys' home. He's a quick thinker and a crafty liar, but also capable of bestowing generous amounts of love to anyone who wants it. Cyril dreams of living with his father, but the father (Jérémie Renier) is shown to be a selfish, childish, lout. Not a single viewer of this movie, anywhere in the world, could possibly understand or sympathize with this guy.

The same could be said for Samantha (Cécile De France), a hairdresser that helps Cyril find his stolen bike. Out of nowhere, he asks if he can live with her on weekends, and out of nowhere, she agrees. She must have her reasons, but the movie doesn't say.

Cyril's fate turns once again when he attracts the attention of local thug Wes (Egon Di Mateo), who wears his hair slicked back with a muscle shirt. Wes is impressed by the way Cyril fights to get his bike back from a thief, and decides to recruit the youngster in a robbery scheme. In perhaps the worst night of Cyril's life, he fights with Samantha to get out of the house, bungles the robbery, and then watches as his father refuses to take the money and tells Cyril to "never come back."

Things go still worse for Cyril, but the movie ends as he, once again, gets back up, gets on his bike, and pedals away, this time toward something good.

Some critics have read religious and spiritual symbolism into the film, such as in the way that Cyril first encounters Samantha, wrapping his arms around her for dear life -- and she lets him -- as the school counselors try to drag him away. The moment happens so fast -- and it's Samantha's very first appearance -- that it's difficult to reflect on it.

Yet Cyril's intelligence, love, and determination are what really drive this movie, rather than the flabby supporting characters and their shadowy motivations. In scene after scene, he takes some terrible blows, but remains strong, despite what is obviously some terrible pain. He makes you want to throw your own arms around him.

As they did for La Promesse and Rosetta, The Criterion Collection has released The Kid with a Bike on a deluxe Blu-ray as well as a DVD. The major bonus feature, recorded exclusively for this release, is a 74-minute interview with the Dardennes, conducted by critic Kent Jones. There's also a featurette in which the brothers discuss certain sequences from the film, as well as shorter interviews with actress Cecile de France and young actor Thomas Doret. There's also a trailer, as well as a liner notes booklet with an essay by critic Geoff Andrew.

Best Buy Co, Inc.