DIR: Jean Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne • PRO; Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, Denis Freyd • ED: Marie-Helene Dozo • DOP: Alain Marcoen • CAST: Thomas Doret, Cecile De France, Jeremie Renier

Jean Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne are back on Irish screens with their new piece of observational human drama, The Kid with a Bike. The film’s title could hardly be any less direct in its unadorned simplicity. Last year, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne won the Gran Prize Jury award with this film at the Cannes film festival. The French Riviera annual festival represents a special place for the Belgian ‘Maestros’, having already been crowned with two Palme d’Ors (Rosetta in 1999 and The Child in 2005).

The Kid with a Bike is about the psychological, painful journey of a boy, Cyril,who has been rejected by his father. In care, Cyril can’t accept that he no longer has contact with his father, and so goes in search of him, riding his beloved bike that he got back with the help of a local hairdresser, Samantha. Samantha (played by a fascinating Cecile De France) agrees to take care of Cyril at the weekends and help him to somehow get back in touch with his father.

In his first screen role, the remarkable Thomas Doret (Cyril) bristles with anger and flailing determination; this fearless, ginger-haired child conveys the perfect mood of resiliance and desperation.

Marked by their neorealistic mise-en-scene, The Kid with a Bike is very recognisably a Dardennes’ film. They seem to always know where to put the camera to the service of the story, and never vice versa. However, alongside the customary Dardennes’ markers – non professional actors, documentary naturalism and small-town settings,  there are also new elements of bringing the drama on the screen. There is a major star, (Cecile de France); there is a consistent summer shooting that helps to alleviate the films grimmer moments; and also, The Kid with a Bike marks a rare use of music in a Dardennes’ film – where a handful of key moments are sparingly punctuated by Beethoven’s grace and elegance.

The film itself is distinctly built as a fairytale, keeping the promise that the Dardenne brothers made a couple of years ago when they announced their desire to produce a film with this partcular atmosphere. Nevertheless, this sort of fairytale imagination is enriched by many cultural references, expressions of everyday life in a suburban Belgian town, and a certain feminist tinge.

It’s worth  mentioning also that once again the Belgian directors have decided to set the whole story, as per their previous films, in the little industrial town of Seraing, which is both a real and an imaginary place. Unlike previous works though, this time the grey weather and anguishing locations give way to bright sunny days and uneasy riding ‘au velo’.

Nicola Marzano

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
The Kid with a Bike is released on 23rd March 2012

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