One can argue that a film lives or dies by the performance of its child actor. While this is definitely not always the case, the argument becomes a lot more valid when the child is playing the film’s primary character. It’s pretty easy to assume little of a child’s ability to play a dynamic and ever-growing character, but that may just make it all the more impressive when they succeed in the venture.

Such is absolutely the case with “The Kid with a Bike”, the moving story of a young boy who’s father wants nothing  to do with him, and the ordinary hairdresser who decides to take him in and provide him with the necessary care. It’s a film where its child actor gets to shine free of any discernible stigma holding him back.

“I can’t look after him.”

Cyril is a boy who it doesn’t seem like anyone really wants to deal with. Dropped in a boy’s home by his father who promises to come back for him when he’s “ready”, it’s no real surprise that he lashes out and isn’t always on his best. Pedaling around the city and always getting into some sort of trouble, an owner of a local parlor named Samantha sees his need of direction and decides to take him in. Faced with Cyril’s sheer unruliness as well as her unfortunate knowledge that his father doesn’t want anything to do with him, Samantha illustrates the level of strength and endurance needed that can stem from a simple good deed.

What sets this film apart however from any other film with a similar theme is that there is absolutely no sap in sight here. The film has no music apart from one short orchestral piece that plays at the beginning and end of each of the film’s three acts as a means of transition. While this allows for a much more realistic atmosphere to be created, the film can often come off as cold and distant as a result. This is not usually an issue, although there are certainly moments of the film that pack an emotional punch but feel a little bit off for their lack of any real warmth.

This same lack of warmth is found in the performance of Cecile de France as Samantha, although in this case it’s for the better. The French actress plays her character in a way that is far from motherly and unconditionally forgiving- because the young business owner that Samantha is would have no real reason to be. The same can be said of the 11 year-old Thomas Doret who gives one of the most impressive performances of any child actor in quite a while. He can be at times painful to watch for how difficult and unappreciative he is, but all the discomfort really proves is how good of a job he is doing.

“The Kid with a Bike” is an interesting piece as a result of this. With an act-format more like that of a stage play, the film is less of a full-fledged production and far more a medium to display the incredible acting talents of these two actors. This said, simplicity certainly pays of in this regard.

8/10

Runtime: 1 hr 27 min

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