Toronto International Film Festival 2011: ‘The Kid With a Bike’

[15 September 2011]

By Stuart Henderson

PopMatters Features Editor

Director: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes
Cast: Cecile de France, Thomas Doret, Jeremie Renier, Fabrizio Rongione, Egon Di Mateo
Country: Belgium / France / Italy

This quiet little tour de force about a troubled young boy has bewitched the critics at this year’s Festival. It is one of those movies one overhears talk of while in line for a screening, the critic using words like “classic” and “masterpiece” and “genius”. Recalling such top-shelfers as 400 Blows with its unflinching but nuanced treatment of childhood psychology and emotional distress, The Kid With a Bike portrays a world that feels eminently lived in, and true to the messiness of experience.

As the young boy (Thomas Doret) struggles with an absent and immature father (Jeremie Renier), a missing beloved bicycle, a gang of local toughs that wants him to join, and the disruption of a new foster mother (Cecile de France, in a pitch-perfect turn), we struggle with a gathering concern for his well-being. It is a minimalist, impressively naturalistic picture in almost every way. A small movie, yes, but it has a deep and powerful impact. Everything here is in perfect balance, like a superior instrument. Or, perhaps, a weapon. Among the very best of the Festival, and the year.
Rating: 9

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