The eponymous kid in The Kid With A Bike is Cyril Catoul (Thomas Doret) who has been abandoned by his father and put in a care home and, by a random act of kindness, is living at weekends with a hairdresser named Samantha. One of the questions asked in the film is “So why do you do it?” and the only answer given is “For you”. The characters seem to have no motive for what they are doing. Cyril’s dad leaves him for no real reason, Samantha cares for him because she feels she should, and Cyril turns to gang solidarity because he has nothing better to do.
It reverses the typical story of a father searching for his child as Cyril desperately knocks on doors, answers adverts and even steals money, only to find that his father never wants to see him again because he has decided he “can’t cope with the stress”. This all makes for a gritty, realistic story of a child living in a world where he has to face poverty and clings to any father figure he can, similar to the equally bicycle-themed Italian film Bicycle Thieves. And the bike is just as important as the kid himself; it is his escape plan, his pastime and the last part of his life with his father that he has left. Possibly the most heartbreaking scenes are not when Cyril is without his father but when he is without his bike, because it is constantly being stolen from him.
The film manages to follow everyday events like these without being boring and incorporates moments of drama, such as Cyril’s violent outbursts, without becoming melodramatic. It’s probably the energy from Cyril himself that gives the film pace. He is always running, not to anything in particular but just running away in general, and the tracking camera shots follow this perfectly. The cinematography captures the bright colours of a pretend childhood at the care home and the Belgian countryside, and contrasts nicely with the dark streets of the neighbourhood where Cyril is drawn into crime.
You can see why this film won the highest accolade available at the Cannes Film Festival, above A Separation, but did not make the Oscars. Its story does not wrap up neatly enough or contain enough feel good heart warming moments to satisfy that kind of audience. But after viewing, you do walk away with a feeling that even though all is not well, Cyril has found some sort of happiness, and that is enough for this film.