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Cécile De France, Thomas Doret, Jérémie Renier, Fabrizio Rongione, Egon Di Mateo

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 emotio... read more read more...nal 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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76% liked it

24,480 ratings


97% liked it

118 critics

PG-13, 1 hr. 27 min.

Directed by: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

Release Date: March 16, 2012

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DVD Release Date: February 12, 2013

Stats: 471 reviews


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Flixster Reviews (471)

  • August 21, 2012
    The Kid with a Bike can be a frustrating film to watch at times but only because it's so compelling and well acted. Thomas Doret is instantly believable as the abandoned boy looking for his father and in turn looking for somewhere to belong. It's a slow burner but the conclusion ... read moremore than makes up for it, it's certainly one of my favourites of the year so far - I'll be looking into other films by Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne asap.
  • May 9, 2012
    Coming of age tales heavily rely on the emotional connection that audiences share with the protagonist. If we can't identify with the star, then the story may not have merit. Even the best child actors can drift into precociousness. This is not the case here, as young actor Thoma... read mores Doret is captivating in a natural rendition. The Dardenne brothers get credit for allowing our lead character to just react. When faced with the reality of his situation, he underplays, sometimes in silence, which speaks much louder than any dialogue ever could. His acting is less of a performance than the candidly captured portrait of an actual 11 year old boy. He commands attention.

    Doret's talent makes up for the bare bones details that sometimes remain underdeveloped. Yet the sketchiness of the narrative feels like real life. For me the hardest thing for me to understand was his dad's capacity to disassociate from his pre-teen son. How could a father abandon his child after 11 years so easily? The justification he gives doesn't substantiate the magnitude of his decision. At first the lack of specifics is frustrating. However It provided a justification for Cyril's subsequent misbehavior. The youngster's inability to accept his father's abandonment matched mine. He was an unruly little boy but I felt as he did. Despite his unmanageable behavior, Cyril always remained a sympathetic individual at heart.
  • May 2, 2012
    A Belgian boy tries to reunite with the father who abandoned him; a single hairdresser takes an interest in his plight. Young Thomas Doret is excellent as the understandably troubled boy who craves love but instinctively sabotages his chances in this thoughtful heartstring-tugger.
  • April 8, 2012
    The Dardennes Brothers' "The Kid with a Bike," which tied for second prize at Cannes last year, is what you would expect from this filmmaking team: a brutally frank depiction of human callousness. Here the victim is a boy about 10 years old suddenly and inexplicably abandoned by ... read morehis father, his only parent.

    The film opens with the boy already in an orphanage. The abandonment has just happened. The boy is frantically looking for his father, seeming to be in denial about what is going on. Quite serendipitously, he meets a generous woman in her 30s who starts to care for the boy just as inexplicably as his father stopped.

    She helps him in his quest to find Dad and tries to re-stabilize his life. But all is not rosy. The boy becomes intensely devoted to a drug dealer who is expert at manipulating lost boys. Watching this older boy "seduce" the younger boy by acting like a big brother is fascinating.

    This film has a brilliantly acute sense of how gangs attract lost children by giving them a feeling of belonging. Scratch the surface of most young boys, and what you get is a profound need to feel loved by older boys. Make a lost boy feel loved, and he'll do almost anything for you. --unfinished--
  • April 2, 2012
    Cyril: Dad! I'm here.

    Given that the month of March was packed with an unusual amount of high budget, blockbuster films, I figured I would balance things out with a couple of independent/arthouse features as well. One of these was The Kid with a Bike, a Belgian film from the Da... read morerdenne brothers (Jean-Pierre and Luc). This film follows a young boy dealing with being abandoned by his father and attempting to forge new relationships with other potential role models and caretakers. The film is very naturalistic, a key type of style when it comes to the Dardenne's work, as it plays out as more character-driven, as opposed to story-driven and plays around a lot with ambiguity, despite straddling a somewhat familiar path. With that in mind, the film is very good, well-acted, and filled with moments that evoke emotion as well as thoughts based around developing more of an understanding for one's self, rather than letting the film tell you what to think.

    read the whole review at
  • March 31, 2012
    'The Kid with a Bike'. A superb young lead performance by Thomas Doret, difficult and frustrating at times, but a beautifully constructed, very real drama.

    Cyril Catoul is a kid whose absolute tenacity you can't help but admire, a character you completely sympathise with, and th... read moreen the frustration kicks in, as he goes out of his way to push away a woman showing nothing but warmth and love, while holding onto the hope of his father and all that means.

    You certainly go on a journey with him as his character, and he's a wonderfully complex one at that. The ending, with Cyril's quiet acceptance at the retaliation of the boy he struck, shows maturity well beyond his years. An acknowledgment of the ups and downs of life, and consequences of his actions.

    What the hell was up with the music signalling each of the four acts though? the film functioned fine without music the rest of the way through, and it was incredibly distracting, and added no meaning, while feeling cheap, and tacked on.
  • January 21, 2012
    Although interesting at first, this drama proves to be a frustrating effort that doesn't seem to have much to say. The Dardennes continue to invest in their neo-realism but this time the characters are not well constructed and the conflicts seem artificial. Besides, the young pro... read moretagonist is way too dislikable.
  • March 29, 2012
    Following a chance encounter, hairdresser De France allows wild child Doret to leave his juvenile home and stay with her at the weekends. Upon discovering the child's father,Renier, wants nothing to do with him, she takes him into her care on a permanent basis, battling to keep h... read moreim on the straight and narrow, and away from local drug dealer Di Mateo.

    It sounds like the basis for a nineties TV movie, the type that usually starred Meredith Baxter Birney, and in many hands it could have amounted to such. The writing directing duo The Dardenne Brothers steer away from any schmaltz and sentimentality thankfully. Their best choice was to avoid a classic narrative structure, there's no typical beginning or ending, it's just a few weeks in the lives of the characters. The story may be cliched but the characters and the actors portraying them give it a vitality. I'm a big fan of underwriting characters, it allows the viewer to fill in the blanks and you become a lot more invested than if a screenwriter is shoving their idea of a great character down your throat. The Dardennes tell us almost nothing about the people in this story which is probably why I found them so engaging. The backstories forming in my mind are probably totally different to those of any ten other people who might watch this.
    Doret is incredible, a non-actor who was plucked off the street. There are very few great child actors as they almost inevitably make the the mistake of acting above their years, coming across as small adults rather than children. Doret makes no such mistake, possibly because he simply doesn't know how. He's completely natural and his awkward, uncomfortable movements are perfect for the character. I usually despise child characters in films but I was absolutely behind this one. It sounds crazy but the three best performances of the year so far have come from two twenty year old actresses and a twelve year old amateur.
    After a somewhat failed stint in English language productions, De France is back on home soil and should stay there as she won't get many roles as good as this in the anglicized world. With her muscular arms she looks like she could beat up any grown man but plausibly struggles to control Doret in his wilder moments.
    Kitchen sink dramas like this aren't usually known for being easy on the eye but Alain Marcoen's cinematography is full of eye-popping colour, proving that grittiness doesn't have to equal ugliness.
    The Dardennes end this in a way which will likely aggravate many viewers but I found it a perfect denouement.
  • March 26, 2012
    Like most boys of his age, Cyril(Thomas Doret) is full of energy, which helps in his numerous escape attempts from a chldren's home where his father(Jeremie Renier) placed him about a month previously. On one such attempt, he gets as far as his old apartment building where he ha... read mores to be surgically detached from Samantha(Cecile De France), a hairdresser. Not having any hard feelings, she buys him back his old bicycle which his father had sold without notifying him. In return, he asks to stay the weekends with her to which she agrees. However, even with the help of her boyfriend Gilles(Laurent Caron), they have trouble keeping him under control.

    Written and directed by the Dardenne brothers with their usual humanism and care, "The Kid with a Bike" is a simple title of a simple, yet subtly moving, story about a complex issue that involves responsibility at many levels. Cyril's father has surrendered his familial responsibilities in order to start over in a new town. That in return causes Cyril to grow up much quicker than normal with his father not present to guide or raise him. Samantha, accepting society's responsibility for its children, takes up a bit of the slack but can only do so much as guardian, not parent, as she owns her own business. My only problem with this otherwise engaging film might be with the epilogue, even as I possibly grasp its meaning.
  • August 7, 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 wi... read moreth 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

Critic Reviews

Stanley Kauffmann
June 18, 2013
Stanley Kauffmann, The New Republic

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. Full Review

Mike D'Angelo
January 8, 2013
Mike D'Angelo, L.A. Weekly

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. Full Review

Tom Charity
January 7, 2013
Tom Charity,

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. Full Review

Colin Covert
April 13, 2012
Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune

The film should be required viewing for everyone who has lost faith in the power of random acts of kindness. Full Review

Calvin Wilson
April 13, 2012
Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

This is a film that's not always easy to watch, but just about impossible to forget. Full Review

Tom Long
March 30, 2012
Tom Long, Detroit News

"The Kid With a Bike" vibrates with desperation, frustration and the simple unfairness of life, leavened with glimpses of hope. Full Review

Ann Hornaday
March 30, 2012
Ann Hornaday, Washington Post

Cyril is one of the most inspiringly resilient, self-aware young characters to arrive on-screen in recent memory... Full Review

Moira MacDonald
March 29, 2012
Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times

Hunched over the handlebars, the boy's body seems to carve a hole in the wind. And we watch as this unhappy, rejected child makes some terrible choices, some of which make us want to look away. Full Review

Ty Burr
March 29, 2012
Ty Burr, Boston Globe

"The Kid With A Bike'' is, remarkably, about hope - about the connections people forge when the ones they've been given desert them. Full Review

Rafer Guzman
March 23, 2012
Rafer Guzman, Newsday

The Dardennes' quiet, naturalistic style strips this story of melodrama but not of emotion. Full Review

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    • Samantha: Don't be upset if it's not the way you dream it'll be.
    • Cyril Catoul: I'm not dreaming.
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    • Le libraire: He'll forget me.

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