The Kid with a Bike.


Samantha and Cyril search for his father.

We have reached the final film for this seasons Robert Burns Centre Film Theatre Film Club. It started back last September with a well-received showing of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and ended this week with The Kid with a Bike(2011). In between, the season has had its highs and lows. Each of us would no doubt have their favorites. My personnel top feature films would be The Skin I Live In (2011) Drive (2011)My Week with Marilyn (2011) Shame (2011)The Lady (2011)and Once Upon A Time in Anatolia (2011) My prize for the most original film would have to go to Johnny Daukes The Acts of Godfrey (2012), which was also the most enjoyable evening. We also had a selection of documentaries the two best in my humble opinion would have to be The Interrupters (2011) and Girl Model (2011). The best film of the season? We Need to talk About Kevin (2011) for which Tilda Swinton should have won an Academy Award for Best Actress and Lynn Ramsey for Best Director.


The angry boy in red.
Man of leisure Brendan Kearney was our host for the evening and opened his introduction with a question “what was Belgium best known for”, and it was probably not films, I thought chocolate which gave me food for thought. Apparently the country has two distinct languages, the Dutch speaking majority and the French-speaking minority and its cinema has been thriving. Audience attendance for local films, especially Dutch speaking releases have grown considerably.  When you look into this its quite surprising how often Belgium has been involved with many of the films I have seen including The Devils Double (2011) Potiche(2010) Ae Fond Kiss (2004) Amer (2009) Calvaire (2004) Days of Glory (2006) L’Enfant (The Child)(2005) Looking for Eric (2009) Outside the Law (2010) Private Property (2006) Seraphine (2008) and of course A Kid with a Bike (2011).

Let me say at the outset that the this film is nowhere near as sentimental as the poster would have you believe, in fact it could be a British social problem film from a director the like of Basil Dearden, Ken Loach (Kes 1969), Lynn Ramsey (Ratcatcher 1999) or even Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank 2009) to name but a few. 

Directed, produced and written by the Belgium born brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne their latest offering is accentually an unconditional love story about trust between the single young hairdresser Samantha and Cyril, a dejected young, tightly wound, pre-teen boy who has lost his mother, grandmother and has been abandoned to a children’s care home by his father who has also sold the boys beloved silver forked bicycle. Its when Cyril realises that his father has moved from the estate where they lived without leaving a forwarding address that things begin to turn nasty. Like a fairy godmother of old Samantha agrees to have the boy at her own home for weekends, helps him search for his father and buys back his bike. In the process she falls out with her boyfriend when he asks her to choose between him and the boy she chooses the rather wayward Cyril.

Certainly not a sentimental movie.

The film stars the very attractive Belgium actress Cecile de France as Samantha who you would of seen recently in Clint Eastwood’s 2010 supernatural drama Hereafter as well as many French movies including Switchblade Romance (2003) Singer (2006) Orchestra Seats (2006) A Secret (2007) and Mesrine (2008). In his debut feature film eleven-year-old Thomas Doret gives a very good performance as the vulnerable Cyril, certainly a name to watch out for. Cyril’s irresponsible father Guy is played by another well known Belgium actor Jeremie Renier (Potiche 2010, Summer Hours 2008 The Child 2005)

Cecile de France was the Dardenne's first choice for Samantha.

The Dardenne brothers have been quoted as wanting to make a film about a women who helps a boy emerge from the violence that holds him prisoner, change the word violence to anger and you have the film in a nutshell. They also for the first time combined the use of music to help the story unfold and a cracking straightforward naturalistic story it is, with no diversions, and no sub plots. Although, be warned gentleman, its another film where men are second bested by the female characters, Samantha, the Children’s Panel Chairperson and Guy’s boss, all seem better equipped to deal with ‘life’. A very good film choice to end our season and hopefully I will see you all in July for the Darren Conner Commemorative Evening.