The Kid with a Bike is a French film that won the Grand Prize of the Jury and was nominated for the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival last year. The film deals with the abandonment of boy (Cyril played by Thomas Doret) by his father (Guy played by Jeremie Renier) when things became too tough for him. Cyril is given to a kind of large foster home for boys. Cyril is not the most disciplined young boy. He is prone to running away to find his father because he just does not believe that his father would give him up.
The real central issue of The Kid with a Bike is that Cyril refuses to admit that his father could give him up. All of his anger and issues stem from this. He obviously thinks the world of his father. He can do no wrong. All of this comes to a head when he sees for himself that his father has moved out of his apartment. It finally starts to click in his head that maybe his father has left him. His precious bike is missing as well. In an extreme outburst over this realization, Cyril clings to a woman to try to prevent his foster home manager from taking him back to the home. The woman turns out to be Samantha (played by Cecile de France), a local hairdresser. Cyril has an effect on Samantha that makes her want to help the boy. After the incident, she shows up at the foster home with Cyril’s bike, which she bought from the family that bought it from Cyril’s father. While Cyril does not believe that his father would sell the bike, he is very excited to get his bike back. Samantha also starts taking Cyril to her place for the weekends.
As an American, it was hard to put my mind around the social system of France depicted in this film. I don’t think there is any place in the US that would allow you to take a ward of the state for the weekend. We do have Big Brother and Big Sister programs, but they have a process that you have to go through to even get into the program. I am not sure if those programs allow for overnight stays. Like most people, I would hate to see who would abuse the opportunity to “foster” a child for the weekends. France, or at least the program depicted in this film, has more trust in the goodness of their citizens.
Cyril has many emotional problems that stem from his abandonment by his father. No mention is made of Cyril’s mother in the film, so it is up to the viewers to guess what happened to her. Cyril does not have much discipline and yet he seems able to take care of himself. He looks for acceptance and love in the wrong places, and that leads him to trouble. Samantha does not seem to be adequately equipped to take on a boy such as Cyril. Yet somehow with all the crap he throws Samantha’s way, she still wants him.
The ending of the film is abrupt. It leads me to think there may be some underlying, deep meaning that the audience is supposed to pick up on. Lessons are indeed learned, and Cyril will go on to become a better person for it. Yet I still think there is something there is something unspoken there that lingers. Quite possibly the ending is only to get you to think about how Cyril will go from there. In any case, as the credits rolled, the film feels unfinished.
Given the awards and nominations The Kid with the Bike has received, it is a good film. It deals with the emotional toll that abandonment can bring to a child. It also shows the good in people like Samantha that are willing to step up and nurture a troubled child. However, the ending left me with an incomplete feeling. I wish the film had wrapped itself up nicely, leaving no more questions to be asked.
I give The Kid with a Bike 3 “awesome kid bikes” out of 5.
by Sarah Ksiazek