The Kid with a Bike: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)

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Twelve-year-old Cyril (Thomas Doret), all coiled anger and furious motion, is living in a group home but refuses to believe he has been rejected by his single father (Summer Hours’ Jérémie Renier). He spends his days frantically trying to reach the man, over the phone or on his beloved bicycle. It is only the patience and compassion of Samantha (Hereafter’s Cécile de France), the stranger who agrees to care for him, that offers the boy the chance to move on. Spare and unsentimental but deeply imbued with a heart-rending tenderness, The Kid with a Bike is an arresting work from the great Belgian directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (Rosetta), masters of the empathetic action film. 
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Here we are again with the most recent Dardenne Brothers release of their unofficial “empathy” trilogy, the first two being La Promesse and Rosetta. The Kid with a Bike is about young Cyril who after spending a stint at a group home tries to re-connect with his father who in essence has abandoned him. Cyril won’t take no for an answer and causes major problems at the group home as he is constantly tricking his counselors and escaping the premises. Cyril is a very savvy young lad in that he’s street smart but can also hang with the the upper crust class if need be.

After running off again and backtracking it to the apartment he lived in with his father he’s told that his father left and sold most of their belongings including Cyril’s bicycle. Cyril obviously doesn’t believe this and continues the search until his counselors start to close in him. He runs off and enters a doctor’s office and latches on to a woman in the waiting until being pried off by the counselors. The next day the same woman that Cyril was stuck to, Samantha (Cecile de France), brings him his bike that she bought from someone at the projects that Cyril lived in. This settles Cyril down and she eventually agrees to be his foster mother and takes him into her home.

Now that Cyril has transportation he and Samantha run around the town looking for his father who Cyril is convinced still wants to be part of his life. Samantha humors him in every way until the truth comes out that Cyril’s father really doesn’t want anything to do with him, because he’s in a bad spot in life and is trying to get his own affairs in order.

The Kid with a Bike is a roller coaster of a film in that Cyril is a devastating character with some major flaws and it makes it really hard to sympathize with him when he acts out in his various stages of rage.  Cyril has gotten a raw deal, it’s out of his control, but he either shuts down or lashes out at the people that trying to  help him – he even hurts himself at times when he gets into fits.

I found it rather difficult to empathize with him when he went into his various rages, because here are people, many people, that put their own needs and wants aside to try and help him and then he acts up and betrays them or does the opposite of what he’s supposed to do – like be grateful. It’s not until we get to the end of the film that everything does come full circle and elevate the film to a slightly higher degree than what came before it. Karma is a very cruel mistress and she always seems to get her due, whether we like it or not.

Personally, The Kid with a Bike ranks up there with the Dardenne’s Rosetta in that most of the problems that affect our protagonists are by their own doing. I have a really hard time sympathizing with characters like that. I was rooting for Samantha all the way. She put herself second to Cyril and it was very painful to watch him treat her like crap for the majority of the film. As I said, there’s a hint of optimism when we get to the end, but it’s a very rough road getting there.

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The Kid with a Bike is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Black bars at the top and bottom of the screen are normal for this format. Supervised by director of photography Alain Marcoen , this new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a Northlight scanner from a 35 mm interpositive.

The Kid with a Bike has a very colorful palette that isn’t your typical “rainbow-brite” affair. Cyril always wears a red shirt or red sweater-hoodie, so we know that he’s pretty much the center of attention. The rest of the color wheel is very vibrant without being distracting. I believe the film was shot on film and it’s not the shiniest or prettiest film I’ve ever seen it does look pretty good. There’s a beautiful layer of natural grain en every frame, black levels only ever crush so slightly (not distracting, though) and sharpness and contrast levels are kept on the level.


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The Kid with a Bike features a fully digital 5.1 surround soundtrack. The audio for this release was mastered at 24-bit from the original digital audio master files using Pro Tools HD.

The Kid with a Bike is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1 and brings the life of whatever Belgian town we’re in. The Kid with a Bike is mainly a dialogue driven film but you’ll hear every word and flourish as if it were being spoken right into your ear. There is also one instance that I can remember where there was loud music coming out of a boom box and the speakers handled the beats nicely. This is a newer film, so I would expect the soundtrack to sound a bit more modern, and it does.


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The Kid with a Bike Blu-ray has several interesting extras. We have a very in depth interview with the Dardenne Brothers and film critic Kent Jones, interview with actress Cecile de France, interview with child actor Thomas Doret, and a very cool featurette where The Dardenne Brothers revisit the five filming locations that The Kid with a Bike was shot in. These special features, combined, will run you a couple of hours, which is not bad, and they are of top quality. The Dardenne Brothers are very cool and it’s funny how intuitive they are to each other. The finish each other’s sentences sometimes.

  • New conversation between film critic Kent Jones and directors Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne
  • Interview with actor Cecile de France
  • New interview with actor Thomas Doret
  • Return to Seraing, a half-hour documentary in which the Dardennes revisit five locations from the film
  • Trailer
  • A booklet featuring an essay by critic Geoff Andrew

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Once again, it’s a slightly mixed bag in terms of finished product by the Dardenne Brothers. On one hand the film is short enough that it wraps up quickly, and on the other end, it really takes a long time for us to get to where we need to get in terms of closure – if any. The Blu-ray presentation is good enough as are the above average special features. I’ve got one more Dardenne Brothers feature to get through, with La Promesse, but for now, The Kid with a Bike gets a mild recommendation.




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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

2 Responses to “The Kid with a Bike: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Loved this movie.

  2. Sean Ferguson

    Nicely done! You’re on fire now!