Title: The Kid With a Bike

Reviewed for Shockya by Harvey Karten

Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

Screenwriter: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

Cast: Thomas Doret, Jérémie Renier, Cécile de France

Screened at: Broadway, NYC, 3/8/12

Opens: March 16, 2012

If you live in an urban area, you’re likely to see dogs tied up to the poles outside supermarkets, even restaurants—as though their owners were once living in Dodge City and did likewise to their horses. This is a cruel practice, easy enough to confirm as the dogs of all sizes look nervously inside the stores for their owners, squealing, barking, and ignoring the kind words of passersby. Aside from the threat posed by dognappers, one has to wonder about their people who may spend up to an hour in restaurants, scarcely looking outside to watch their pets virtually succumb to panic attacks.

The same problem affects Cyril (Thomas Doret), a 13-year-old actor playing an 11-year-old in a small Belgian town when his father simply walks out without warning, allegedly because he has no money or because he simply does not want to care for his cute tyke. Doret, a real find who is in virtually every frame, spends half the story running, either trying escape from bullies or to look for his dad or to chase down the thieves who twice take his bike (which he leaves unlocked as though he were living in the crime-free Europe of the 1950s). If he were the right age at the time, he could have been chosen to act the key role in “Run Lola Run.”

“The Kid With a Bike” is a heart-rending story, typical of the productions of the Dardenne brothers, showing what happens to a kid who is left alone by his only remaining parent, and could be symbolic of an entire class of miscreants whose crime waves could be attributed to similar abandonment

As Cyril zips to and fro looking for dad, Guy Catoul (Jérémie Renier), eventually finding him at work in a restaurant and told not to come around again, ever, he attracts the attention of Samantha (Cécile de France), a middle-aged hairdresser who has agreed to take him in on weekends as a break from the local foster home. One wonders about her motivation since she does not herself understand why she is virtually adopting the boy—particularly since he has tried a few times to run away in order to see his father again.

Desperate for love from any quarter, he accepts the kindness of a young drug dealer/criminal, agreeing to help him on a planned misfeasance. We wonder whether he will learn his lesson. Presumably the Dardennes would have us believe that given the new substitute mother who can give him considerable attention, particularly since she does not need time to commute to her establishment, the boy will do just fine. We hope so: meanwhile in this brief 87 minutes of running time, the writer-directors contribute a naturalistic production without CGI or flashbacks, virtually assuring us that young Mr. Doret has a nice career ahead of him per his vivid freshman performance.

Unrated. 87 minutes (c) 2012 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story B-

Acting – A-

Technical – B

Overall – B

The Kid With a Bike

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