The Kid with a Bike

2012

The Kid with a Bike

Critics Consensus

Thanks to the Dardenne brothers' typically fine direction, The Kid with a Bike is a heart-wrenching, thematically and spiritually rich drama.

96%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 130

76%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 25,374
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Movie Info

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival and a Golden Globe nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, the deeply moving new film by the Dardenne brothers delves into the emotional life of troubled 11-year-old Cyril (Thomas Doret). When his father (Jérémie Renier) abandons him, Cyril obsessively searches for his bicycle - placing his last bit of hope in this symbol of their relationship. Almost by accident, he becomes the ward of a kind hairdresser (Cécile de France), who seems surprised to find herself so determined to help him. With his wild, unpredictable behavior and his disastrous search for father figures, Cyril risks losing her - though she refuses to give up without a fight. -- (C) IFC

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Critic Reviews for The Kid with a Bike

All Critics (130) | Top Critics (39) | Fresh (125) | Rotten (5)

  • The directing by the Dardenne brothers reflects their previous work: it wants to be unnoticed either for virtuosity or clumsiness, yet only virtuosos can attain this ideal.

    Jun 18, 2013 | Full Review…
  • It's nonetheless immensely satisfying - not least in its commitment to a child protagonist whose near-feral intensity and unthinking ingratitude make him the polar opposite of cute.

    Jan 8, 2013 | Full Review…
  • There is not a wasted shot in this stripped down, pared back fable. Yet, it accrues a deep and lasting power. You won't see many better this year.

    Jan 7, 2013 | Full Review…

    Tom Charity

    CNN.com
    Top Critic
  • This is a film that's not always easy to watch, but just about impossible to forget.

    Apr 13, 2012 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • "The Kid With a Bike" vibrates with desperation, frustration and the simple unfairness of life, leavened with glimpses of hope.

    Mar 30, 2012 | Rating: A- | Full Review…

    Tom Long

    Detroit News
    Top Critic
  • Cyril is one of the most inspiringly resilient, self-aware young characters to arrive on-screen in recent memory...

    Mar 30, 2012 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Kid with a Bike

  • Aug 07, 2014
    Don't worry, little Christopher Lee, because when you grow up, you can get rid of that crummy old bike, and get yourself a golden gun. Well, the title makes me think of that, for some reason, as well as a generic BMX chase movie from the '80s, except instead of the titular kid with a bike being chased by the grown-up, the kid is trying to chase down his father. The Dardenne brothers really know how to showcase the struggles of children caught up in some misfortune... and then figure out how to bore you with it. At the very least, you'll end up with some disdain towards the kid that probably shouldn't be there, because the last time we saw Jérémie Renier, he was the lead in "The Child", and now that child is grown up and being rejected by that poor sucker who keeps hoping that people will mistake him for Jeremy Renner, thus making him sort of relevant. Shoot, before that, we had "The Son", so maybe the Dardennes have some daddy issues or something, although you couldn't entirely tell from watching this film, for this is much more upbeat than the Dardennes previous films. ...I mean upbeat in subject matter, not upbeat in tone, because that insinuates that this film is about as lively as its story suggests. No, this film is a fairly engaging coming-of-age drama, at least more so than "Rosetta" (Maybe I would care more about the kid's problems if I actually cared about the kid), though not exactly more so than it can be. As reflected in, say, a runtime which more-or-less pathetically falls short of 90 minutes, this story, despite being a showcase for worthy subject matter, is not especially special, following a straightforward narrative whose simplicity is bland enough, without the familiarity. Films like these are to be characterized by their being distinct, but something that the Dardenne brothers have always been good at is doing nothing new with storytelling of this style, and sure enough, this film is not simply formulaic, but entirely derivative, and not even of a strong structure to begin with. This film isn't quite as cold as, say, "Rosetta", but it still thrives on aimless meditations upon a whole lot of nothing, for the sake of naturalism that would be immersive if it wasn't for the fact that real life is typically more lively than this. The Dardenne's directorial thoughtfulness works better than I feared, but it still falls over do-nothing material, thus, when things dry up, the drama dull down, generally to a bland degree, and often to a dull degree which distances about as much as the aspects of storytelling which are anything but draggy. Intentionally meandering along, with no real dramatic romanticism, this film seems to hold onto the hope that you'll just happen to stumble upon exposition, as it doesn't really provide any background information, and its gradual characterization is so superficial, not in layers, but in overall exploration. It's a little difficult to get ahold on what's so worthy about the titular lead and his peers, because the film wants you to simply get used to it, yet it still challenges your patience and investment with familiarity, meandering and dullness, and its story isn't even all that juicy to begin with. This film was never to be much, but it also could have fallen so much flatter than it ultimately does, with even the Dardenne's direction having its endearing aspects. I still can't figure out how it's taking two people to do essentially nothing, because, again, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne rely on an empty directorial style that relies on naturalism and, especially nowadays, boasts very, very little actual style, and yet, one has to appreciate the audacity and the charming ambition in the minimalist, naturalist storytelling sensibilities applied here. Your appreciation will surely be augmented once the Dardennes' overt meditativeness proves effective, with an immersively delicate tastefulness that resonates upon finding material to draw upon which, with a lesser story, would be borderline nonexistent. This story is nothing new, and not much more than nothing at all, and it's easy to expect this film to go the way of certain other Dardenne dramas of this type and fall flat, but through all of the questionable narrative structuring is genuinely worthy subject matter regarding a troubled boy trying to connect with his family and changes in life. There is potential to salvage here, and the Dardenne's don't even do much with it through their script, which is minimalist, but not as do-nothing as I feared, offering plenty of dialogue to help enrich what expository depth there is, and to always provide the meditativeness with something to work with to keep you from getting too bored between the dramatic heights. Honestly, there isn't much to compliment in this lightly drawn affair, but where this film could have gotten completely carried away with its minimalism and fallen as yet another mediocre misfire for the Dardennes, it carries the charm to endear, just as it carries the performances to humanize. This film relies on mere meditations to its dramatics, and that can either distance you a great deal, or allow you to soak in the subtle nuances to, say, the performances, and sure enough, although the performers have little to work with, they do what they can to the best of their abilities, or at least that's the case with Cécile de France, and with young lead Thomas Doret, who is near-remarkably realized in his projection of a flawed and concerned lad's angst and depth. The Cyril Catoul character, with his limited development and great deal of questionable aspects which only grow more and more problematic before finally being dismissed through a desperate attempt at redemption, could have turned out like the lead in the Dardenne's "Rosetta", a kid too flawed to be engaging, even with an inspired portrayal, but Doret, the central focus of this drama, ultimately soaks up enough heart to keep the final product pumping as a charming and often effective, if challenging drama. Its story thin to begin with, a wholly derivative and questionably draggy and cold, when not developmentally vacant storytelling style threaten the final product's decency, ultimately secured by the worthy subject matter, thoughtful directorial highlights, adequately busy script and nuanced performances by Cécile de France and Thomas Doret which make the Dardenne brothers' "The Kid with a Bike" a serviceably engaging and sometimes effective drama, despite the problematic storytelling aspects which could have made it so much worse. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Jan 22, 2014
    France, Sweden, Ireland, the UK and sometimes Italy have been notorious countries that apply an absorbing, minimalistic style to the events depicted to make them more serious in tone and more invasive psychologically. The Dardenne brothers put that trend to good use in what may be their most simplistic film, but like it has been said before: "In simplicity lies complexity". Some parallels may be drawn between Truffaut's <i>Les Quatre Cents Coups</i> (1959), as we witness a boy with a strong lack of parental figures and in a world of adulthood irresponsibility wandering aimlessly through the streets, he seems to follow the same steps that any Antoine Doinel would make: feeling misunderstood and alone, escaping his home, engaging in thievery, but screaming for comprehension. The minimalism already mentioned helps to emphasize something. Given the simplicity of the plot, you need an engaging style, or an unexpected conclusion, or empathetic characters, or anything else that may convince audiences that your film is still worth watching instead of letting them judge the book by its cover and call it predictable before even watching it. The Dardenne brothers are aware of this. Indeed, the events and the conclusion are unexpected because every sequence is portrayed as realistically as possible. And what do we know about life? It's unpredictable, alright. The most interesting twist is that every character is portrayed like a standard personage when it is introduced, but then changes our initial perception by literally inviting us to their homes. We see Samantha (the hairdresser) as a regular character and hairdresser, who may just be the "heartfelt" female character who will replace the motherly figure in Cyril's life, but then we see her being concerned about Cyril, extremely patient, crying over her powerlessness because of a situation that does not belong to her blood-wise, and we see her choose Cyril over his disinterested fiancé. We meet the leader of a gang of young crooks, and before we can condemn him as the "bad guy", we visit his home and see four depressing walls covered by a roof with an overweight mother and a clear lack of a male family head, with nobody to look after both. That's what we are lead to assume. So, the film causes emotional responses, but simultaneously reminding us of not engaging into any judgment, because the truth is, we have no idea. It's a tough world out there. 84/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer
  • Jun 16, 2013
    This is a damn good movie exploring how a child being abandoned by his father affects his relationships with others and how he ends up looking for father figures in the wrong places. The execution of the film is moving and touching, so the complexity of this kid's troubles shine through and create a compelling story. If I had any problem with the film, which would be excellent regardless, is that, sometimes, Thomas Doret's performance, while always good, makes the character seem unlikable and unsympathetic rather than a troubled kid and how his circumstances in life lead him down the path he takes. There is a fine line between coming across as a troubled kid who really needs the help and just coming across as kind of a dick. I realize that's kind of a harsh thing to say considering the things he went through, but he's surrounded by people, at least Cecile De France's character and the people at the foster home, who are legitimately trying to help him and he just pushes them away, even to the point of biting and stabbing the people who're trying to help him, even after seeing what a loser his father is. And Thomas Doret simply doesn't walk that fine line, at least to me. That's not to say he's good, because he is. He has this incessant desperation to find his deadbeat dad, and after he finds out that his father wants nothing to do with him, how he gravitates to the first person he considers a father figure, someone who he thinks cares for him. So that part of his performance was excellent, these are the parts where you can really relate to the character and how you wish for him to truly get better with the help of people who, really, care for him. I found the most compelling in the character in the film to be Samantha, because Cyril's motivations are pretty clear right from the very beginning. But you never really know why Samantha does why she does for Cyril and there's intrigue from that regard. Plus Cecile De France is a very good actress and she's really good in this movie as she's trying to help this child who seemingly doesn't want her, and the complexities that gives her character. I found her to be great in this film, she has this very sweet demeanor about her. I found this movie to be really good and, as mentioned, it looks at the complex relationships Cyril finds himself in after his father leaves him, and even if I found some of his performance unlikable, the rest of the film is still top notch film-making.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Sep 08, 2012
    Another wonderful drama written and directed by the Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, who may be the most consistently high-achieving filmmakers of our time! This time it is a story of a 12-year-old boy who turns to a woman for comfort after his father has abandoned him... Starring Cécile de France and Thomas Doret this is one of the film achievements with a soul of its own. Produced through companies in Belgium, France and Italy this outstanding art work still keeps the naturalistic style of the Dardenne brothers' earlier works, but many critics noticed that a brighter aesthetic than usual was used. Another new thing in this movie is that the directors this time are using music. This movie premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and won the festival's Grand Prix. Luc Dardenne and his brother Jean-Pierre had for a long time had the idea of a film about "a woman who helps a boy emerge from the violence that holds him prisoner." Writing the screenplay took one year including a few breaks. This is for everyone who prefers heartfelt, boldly direct film, revisiting the film-makers' classic themes of parenthood, trust and love.
    Panta O Super Reviewer

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