The Kid with a Bike (2011) (PG-13)
There's a lot going on in "The Kid with a Bike", one of the larger indie smash films of the last few years. Even though the film—holding steady with this most recent trend in European, art house films—often holds the viewer at arms length, the intelligence in situations translates to the emotions thereof and that is what gives the film its unexpected power.
Cyril (Thomas Doret) is not your average kid, then again, he's not in the most normal of circumstances. When "The Kid with the Bike" begins, it has been almost a month since Cyril's father has dropped him off at a home for kids. Cyril has been trying to call his father for several days without success. The apartment building that his dad stayed at now claims that Guy hasn't been a tenant for the last several weeks. On top of this, Cyril's bike is missing and his thinks that his dad has it.
Determined beyond logic that he has to reconnect with his father and get his bike back, Cyril fills the space between space thinking and searching for his dad. It's almost obsessive the way he dodges the adults in his life and escapes certain set institutions like school and home.
If there is a huge theme about femininity versus masculinity (at least, concerning child-rearing), there is an even larger one that involves adults versus children. By no means is Cyril the most normal of children. He seems almost autistic with his determination. I'm glad that "The Kid with a Bike" never addresses whether or not this is the case, because that bogs the viewer down with unnecessary emotion.
The film works without the pull of another string.
While running around, looking for his father, breaking into buildings and the like; Cyril uses a lady at a hospital as a hostage of sorts until he gets his way. He grabs onto her and doesn't let go until he gets to go inside his father's apartment and see that there is no bike for him. The lady's name turns out to be Samantha (Cécile De France) and she tracks down his bike for him and buys it back.
The evidence of his father's abandonment is clear to all but Cyril, so much so, that when the dad finally does get tracked down and essentially shuns the kid, Cyril is blind to it.
What I really like about the film is how it keeps moving even though there are large sections of it that seem "unnecessary". In its most condensed form, the film could easily be a short film; yet that doesn't give us a long enough time to make up our own minds about the characters and the situations.
"The Kid with a Bike" is by no means a perfect movie and sometimes strays too far into the melodramatic for its own good. It's filled with a dynamic screen duo of Cécile De France and Thomas Doret. The film demands a lot from both of them and they deliver exactly what is needed. The best scenes of the movie consist of them together.
We begin to ask ourselves if Cyril would have been better off with a mother (Samantha) than a father (Guy) and what constitutes as maternity and paternity. If half the movie is teaching Cyril a lesson, the other half is Cyril unintentionally teaching others a moral. The end scene leaves us wondering about the most simple and childish notions—like lying—and whether or not it hurts anyone, most importantly, whether or not we would do it ourselves. As simple as making a child atone for his misdemeanors translating to the larger, more adult scale, sees our characters reverting back into a "childish" world of lies and deceit.
But is that natural?
"The Kid with a Bike" leaves us with many, many questions. It's a huge bite to sink your teeth into and it's even more of a intellectual whirlpool for keeping its ideas so simple.
To borrow a line: you have to admire its purity.
Posted by Micah Jones