the kid with a bike follows a nice, bicycle-based tradition of european cinema, which at least dates back to de sica’s classic the bicycle thief.
it tells the story of a rebellious, full-of-beans kid whose dad has abandoned him. he goes to an orphanage but believes, beyond hope, that if he can only get home, or find his dad, that everything will be better.
as a kid who grew up believing not just in the intentions of an absent father figure but also in bicycles, i found this disjointed, abstract film quite moving. i found it so moving that i watched it weeks ago and only am now sitting down to write about it after a lot of time and several drinks.
the kid in this film is…. powerful. not just emotionally, but physically. he is hard to restrain. i related to this quite deeply, as it is/was my own experience. he is resolute. no social worker or foster mom is going to convince him otherwise. through sheer force of will he tracks down his dad. as gently as is possible, he gets rebuffed. his dad is working in a restaurant, he is fucking the lady who owns it, the kid can mess this all up, and on and on. after this, the kid turns to some neighborhood thugs and a gang, looking for that father-son dynamic.
unlike myself, he learns a lesson early on and is spared further embarrassment.
this most accessible of the dardenne brothers films is a bit like a sweet fairy tale. it’s happily ever after. the kid finds a home, people are left with a sense of acceptance and peace – essentially everything that eludes those of us who have faced a similar struggle in our adolescent lives with absent fathers.
the kid finds a woman who becomes his family. he moves beyond the hurt and inequity of the past. he truly rides (with her) on his bike off into the sunset.
the film, albeit french, is purely hollywood in it’s approach and in it’s outlook. it fine and it’s endearing.
you cannot help but wish the boy well.