The Kid with a Bike (Blu-ray)
Directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 87 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 French
MSRP: $ 39.95
Release Date: February 12, 2013
Review Date: February 9, 2013
Eleven-year old Cyril (Thomas Doret) now being boarded in an orphanage refuses to believe that his father (Jérémie Renier) has left their apartment without notifying him and has sold his beloved bicycle for some much needed money. A hairdresser named Samantha (Cécile de France) who has agreed to watch Cyril on the weekends buys back his bicycle for him and helps arrange for him to track his father down where he finally hears from his own mouth that he doesn’t want to see him any more. With that rejection, Cyril’s world is wide open for exploitation, and neighborhood pusher Wes (Egon Di Mateo) befriends the innocent kid in order to use him to pull off a robbery setting him and Samantha up for further heartbreak.
Taking a story straight from the streets and refusing to garnish it with movie magic, the Dardenne brothers produce yet another of their patented realist stories that leave sentiment in the closet and focus instead on the true. They’ve created a central character who’s not at all lovable but rather headstrong and belligerent (he’s a biter and a fighter whom the neighborhood toughs call “Pitbull”) and one who’s always finding doors barring him from what he wants. His search for an acceptance on his terms and with someone whom he values takes him over many rough patches during the film’s economically-paced 87-minutes. And yet, even with a protagonist who’s not a lovable movie child, the brothers still manage to get us to root for him: whether he’s chasing down hoods that try to steal his bike or obeying simple requests only when he’s ready to comply. The Dardennes’ careful constructions of scenes pay big dividends in several instances: a tearful, angry reaction to his father’s rejection followed by a need to connect, the fateful robbery scene where the audience holds its collective breath for fear that Cyril’s actions will be ones he’ll never be able to rectify, a climactic chase that ends in heart-stopping suspense of the most unexpected kind.
The Kid with a Bike is Thomas Doret’s acting debut, but there is no self-consciousness before the camera in his naturalistic and completely believable performance. Cécile de France’s Samantha isn’t overly saccharine in her concern for the child and shows the patience of a saint during his frequent bouts of rebellion and bullheadedness. Jérémie Renier as the deadbeat dad is completely convincing in his spare, unfussy performance while Egon Di Mateo as the seductive street thug whose true colors come to the fore after the robbery is also strong.
The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is faithfully reproduced in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is pleasing rather than razor-edged, and darker scenes see a softening of the image and the loss of some detail. Color saturation is nicely sustained throughout, and flesh tones are completely natural. Black levels are solid. The white subtitles are easy to read. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix uses the Beethoven music as its most notable surround feature with sound effects not usually venturing into the rear channels very much but spread instead across the fronts. Dialogue has been well recorded and has been placed in the center channel.
All of the bonus featurettes are presented in 1080p.
Brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne are interviewed by film historian Kent Jones in this 73 ¼-minute feature. They discuss the conception of their story from a Japanese fable they were aware of, their extensive rehearsal techniques among themselves on video, working with non-professional leading actor Thomas Doret, their six weeks of rehearsals with cast and crew before shooting, the spare use of music in the movie, their decisions about camera placement, location shooting, and the theme of a fear of death found in their films.
Cécile De France is interviewed for 19 minutes talking about her thrill to be working for the brothers after working with Clint Eastwood on Hereafter, preparing for the role not psychologically as usual but merely in terms of acquiring skills as a hairdresser for the part, her intuitive approach to the role, and the blessed rehearsal period which she really appreciated.
Thomas Doret is interviewed for 6 minutes. He describes how he applied for the role and got cast and how it was to work with actors he really admired, especially Jérémie Renier.
“Return to Seraing” finds the brothers Dardeene returning to five different locations used during the shoot, describing the decisions that had to be made while filming there, and then showing the clip from the movie as it was ultimately presented. This runs 33 ¼ minutes.
The theatrical trailer runs 2 ½ minutes.
The enclosed 18-page booklet contains cast and crew lists, several color stills and character portraits, and film historian Geoff Andrew’s celebratory essay on the movie and its makers.
The Criterion Blu-rays include a maneuvering tool called “Timeline” which can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc and the title of the chapter you’re now in. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.
4/5 (not an average)
Some people call The Kid with a Bike a fairy tale with its good and bad witches wrestling for the soul of its central character, but it’s more clearly a socio-realist narrative with a young man striving to find the acceptance and security that a family can offer. Fans of the award-winning Dardenne brothers (this film won the Grand Prix at Cannes) will certainly want to add this one to their collections.