Review by Nathan Samdahl (B)
The Kid with a Bike marks the third Dardenne brothers film I've had the pleasure of seeing after Lorna's Silence and the incredible L'enfant. While not as emotionally hard hitting as that film, The Kid with a Bike is a simple tale filled with a very complex moral landscape.
Like in the other two movies, the protagonist here is by no means wholly likeable and is, at times, rather detestable in his actions. The kid, who in fact does cherish and ride a bike throughout almost all of the film, is played by talented newcomer Thomas Doret. The film begins with Thomas' character trying to find his father, who we discover left him alone a month earlier. He refuses to come to grips with his father's departure and continues to adore the man (played by perennial Dardenne film star Jeremie Renier) until his dad tells him directly that he never wants to see him again.
So yeah, the kid's life is not in great shape, but on the bright side, he is taken in by a hospitable woman, played by Cecile De France, who the kid randomly bumps into at a clinic. The two form an unlikely pair. The kid clearly appreciates the woman's efforts, but has an awful time showing it. With no real friends, the kid quickly falls in with the wrong group of teens, in particular the neighborhood drug dealer, and enters a downward spiral from there.
Like in Lorna's Silence and particularly L'enfant, where the inciting incident is so emotionally jarring, the Dardennes carefully include several similarly impactful moments here. Visually grounded and emotionally honest, the film pulls no punches.
The Kid with a Bike was at times a frustrating experience for me. You want so much for the kid to snap out of it and realize and embrace the woman, who has done nothing but help him, but instead he continues to love his deadbeat father and cause trouble around town. I desperately wanted to slap him at several times. This frustration of course makes the film interesting, but ultimately it did impact my enjoyment of the film as eventually I no longer cared what happened to the kid.
A film filled with complex performances and beautiful naturalistic cinematography, The Kid with a Bike is certainly worth seeing , but if you have not seen a Dardenne brother film before I would start with L'enfant.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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