Hazel Scott reviews The Kid with a Bike (Le Gamin Au Velo) currently on limited release.
My poor little heart is still bruised, bashed and squeezed from all the emotion it was put through watching Dardenne brothers’ The Kid with a Bike. One minute it was stuck in my throat, the next it plunged to the pit of my stomach, before skipping a beat or two as I closed my eyes, unable to deal with the implied menace of what might happen next.
Co-director, Luc Dardenne said that he and his brother Jean-Pierre had for some time worked on the idea of a film about, "… a woman who helps a boy emerge from the violence that holds him prisoner."
It’s a simple story, told so that we're with our protagonist, 11 year-old Cyril, in just about every scene. It's an emotional journey throughout with the age-old themes of trust and betrayal caged in abandonment, risk, and finding someone who gives a damn.
When we’re introduced to Cyril, he's trying to track down his father and the bike (symbolic of their relationship) he believes his father is keeping for him. He spends much of his time running and cycling from what he perceives as his incarceration in a care home, as he searches desperately and pathetically for the father who has abandoned him.
Film newbie, Thomas Doret, playing Cyril, reminded me very much of the 14-year-old Thomas Turgoose in This Is England. He's completely believable, not a scrap of stage-school brat about him and he manages to infuriate you and make you want to scoop him up and tell him everything will be ok all at the same time.
His search for his father/bike in the first portion of the film is frustrating and moving, as he is determined not to give up until the father admits to his face that he won't be seeing him again.
The middle section focuses on Cyril's settling in with his foster mother (Samantha the hairdresser) at weekends, and the effect their lives have on each other. Cecile de France plays Samantha convincingly as someone who means well but occasionally is out of her depth, yet we never find out much about her, or why she's made this almost random gesture of kindness to have Cyril with her. Nor do we find out anything about Cyril's real mother, or have some insight into his behaviour when he did live with his father.
As he starts to find his feet with Samantha, the trust that starts to build is shattered by the looming figure of local thug, Wes, who seems to be grooming Cyril for something. These scenes are portrayed in such a dark fashion that whenever they go into the woods, it's a Brothers Grimm moment. We're shown just enough to understand why he's lured… but still feel let down by his behaviour and just hope he doesn't jeopardise his relationship with Samantha.
The Kid with a Bike is a beautifully observed film, never more than its resolution with the simplest of images. It's rewarding, what we've hoped for, finally a moment in the sun.
Hazel Scott can frequently be found adding a touch of 1940s retro glamour to Sheffield's Showroom Cinema bar. Ms Scott studied MA film studies and scriptwriting at Sheffield Hallam University. NT