The Kid with a Bike

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The Kid with a Bike
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJean-Pierre Dardenne
Luc Dardenne
Written byJean-Pierre Dardenne
Luc Dardenne
Produced byJean-Pierre Dardenne
Luc Dardenne
Denis Freyd
StarringThomas Doret
Cécile de France
CinematographyAlain Marcoen
Edited byMarie-Hélène Dozo
Les Films du Fleuve
Distributed byDiaphana Films (France)
Release dates
  • 15 May 2011 (2011-05-15) (Cannes)
  • 18 May 2011 (2011-05-18) (France)
Running time
87 minutes
Budget€5.8 million[1]
Box office$5.2 million[2]

The Kid with a Bike (French: Le gamin au vélo) is a 2011 drama film written and directed by the Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, starring Thomas Doret and Cécile de France. Set in Seraing, it tells the story of a 12-year-old boy who turns to a woman for comfort after his father has abandoned him.[3]

The film was produced through companies in Belgium and France. While The Kid with a Bike does not deviate from the naturalistic style of the Dardenne brothers' earlier works, a comparatively bright aesthetic was employed, as well as a screenplay inspired by fairy tales. Unusually for a film by the directors, it also uses music. It premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and was co-winner of the festival's Grand Prix.


Cyril, a 12-year-old in a Liège children's home, tries calling his father, who said he would only be there for a month. The staff tells him his father never answers and to go to play. Cyril refuses and, when the phone is disconnected, bites a carer then attempts unsuccessfully to abscond. Soon after, Cyril absconds successfully looking for his father.

To get into his father's building, he tells the clinic he is injured. He goes to his father's apartment and knocks until a neighbor tells him it is empty. When caretakers find him, Cyril flees to the clinic and grabs a waiting woman. She says she doesn't mind, only don't squeeze so tight. The caretakers take Cyril to the empty apartment, showing his father has abandoned him.

The next morning, the woman from the clinic, Samantha, shows up with his bike. She says she bought it, but Cyril thinks it was stolen from his dad. He likes Samantha, and asks her to take him on weekends. She agrees and Cyril stays at her home and salon. Samantha and partner Gilles provide Cyril with a happy childhood. He enjoys playing with other children, running errands, and cycling. Still, his father's abandonment haunts him, even after discovering his father sold his bike. One night, he goes to Samantha's bedroom, shocked when he sees Samantha and Gilles having sex. Samantha asks what is wrong and he says he wants his father. Without official permission, Samantha tracks him down and drives Cyril to see him.

When Cyril's father does not meet as agreed, they look for him. At his address, they encounter a woman, who directs them to her restaurant. There, he reluctantly invites Cyril inside while Samantha stays outside to give them privacy. Cyril asks why he has to stay at the home but his father gives no indication of wanting him back. After taking his cellphone number, he tells Cyril to leave and let him work. He asks Cyril to wait outside while he tells Samantha he cannot raise Cyril now that his grandmother is dead, has a new life, and says Cyril is her problem. Samantha demands Cyril's father be honest with him and his father says he must stay at the home or with Samantha, because he doesn't care. Cyril has a breakdown and Samantha has to stop and hold him.

Cyril, heartbroken, turns to Samantha for comfort. Nevertheless, he is adopted by Wesker, a gang leader. When Cyril stays out without checking in, Samantha and Gilles look for him and are displeased that he's keeping company with reprobates. Cyril's cheekiness leads to the couple arguing, with Gilles demanding Cyril apologize and telling Samantha to choose between them. Samantha chooses Cyril and Gilles leaves. Samantha, upset, then drives them home. Cyril fails to understand Samantha's feelings and continues running wild.

One night, rather than go out with a friend and his parents, Cyril angrily demands to go out. He doesn't say he's supposed to meet Wesker for crimes, but Samantha suspiciously refuses permission and blocks the doors. In frustration, Cyril screams he does not want to be with her anymore, but she tells him to call the home, but he won't be leaving the house. In anger and to get away, he stabs Samantha's arm with a pair of scissors and bolts. At Wesker's prompting, Cyril beats and robs a newsstand owner and his son. Wesker, fearing discovery, threatens him and forces him to keep the money. Cyril tries giving it to his father but his father does not want involvement. Dejected, Cyril returns to Samantha, apologizing for her injury. The robbery is settled by Cyril apologizing: the owner accepts but his son does not. Later, the son against his father's wishes confronts and chases Cyril who climbs a tree and falls when struck by a thrown rock. While he lies, possibly dying, the owner and son discuss what lies to tell and how to dispose of evidence. While they're talking, Cyril regains consciousness and declines an ambulance. They watch aghast as Cyril pedals away.



Luc Dardenne said that he and his brother Jean-Pierre had for a long time had the idea of a film about "a woman who helps a boy emerge from the violence that holds him prisoner."[4] Writing the screenplay took one year including a few breaks. In the earliest drafts, the character Samantha was a doctor and not a hairdresser. The script was structured with a fairytale in mind, where the boy would lose his illusions and Samantha would appear as a fairy-like figure. By not explaining much about the characters' past and psychology, the brothers aimed to avoid sentimentality.[4] Throughout the writing process the brothers strove to maintain a strong clarity in the overall work and to avoid gloom, which is why the brothers, according to Jean-Pierre, decided to omit "any form of vulgarity in the teenagers' language, even though they're street criminals."[5]

The film is a co-production with 46% investment from its directors' Belgian company Les Films du Fleuve, 44% from its French Archipel 35, and 10% from Italy's Lucky Red. It received further funding from the CNC, Eurimages, Wallimage, Radio Télévision Belge de la Communauté Française, and the Belgian French Community.[6][7]

Cécile de France was offered the role of Samantha soon after the screenplay was finished, as the brothers believed she would be able to portray the kindness of the character with her body and face alone. For the casting of the boy, Cyril, the production team held around 100 auditions. Thomas Doret was the fifth applicant the brothers met, and according to Jean-Pierre, "it clicked right away."[4] The team rehearsed for a month on the actual sets in full costume.[4]

The 55-day shoot commenced in Belgium in August and ended 15 October 2010.[4][7] It was the first time the Dardenne brothers made a film in the summer.[4] The film was made under the production title Délivrez-moi! which means "Set me free!"[8]

Unusually for a film by the Dardenne brothers, there is music in the film. According to Luc, they hesitated for a long time, but eventually decided that music would serve the film's structure: "In a fairytale there has to be a development, with emotions and new beginnings. It seemed to us that music, at certain points, could act like a calming caress for Cyril."[4]


Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Thomas Doret, Cécile de France and Luc Dardenne at the Cannes Film Festival for the premiere of the film

The film premiered in competition on 15 May at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.[9] Cinéart distributed it in Belgium and Diaphana Films in France. The premiere in both countries took place on 18 May.[10] In Belgium, the film was launched on 27 screens and entered the box-office chart as number six, with a weekend gross of 70,768 euro.[11] In France, it was launched in 172 venues and had an attendance of 107,763 the opening week, which also resulted in a sixth place on the domestic chart. One week later the number of screens had been increased to 215, and the total attendance reached 209,725.[12] In Italy, the film was released on 18 May through Lucky Red.[10] Sundance Selects acquired the distribution rights for the United States.[13] The film was distributed in the United Kingdom through Artificial Eye.[14]


Critical response[edit]

The film received near universal acclaim. On Rotten Tomatoes it has "Certified Fresh" approval rating of 96% based on 119 reviews. The site's critical consensus said that the film "is a heart-wrenching, thematically and spiritually rich drama."[15] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 87 out of 100, based on 33 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[16]

Jonathan Romney wrote in Screen Daily: "After the slightly sub-par Lorna's Silence (2008), the brothers are back on peerless form with this story of innocence betrayed and befriended, which must count as one of the best films about childhood since Kes – or for that matter Bicycle Thieves, to which it surely nods." Romney further commented: "Shooting as usual with cinematographer Alain Marcoen, and in their familiar stamping ground of Seraing, the brothers this time bring a somewhat different, airier look to their locations, more suburban than in the past. Marcoen's camerawork, also, is rather more free-wheeling than the tightly constrained (and often imitated) tightness of The Son."[17] At the 2011 London Film Festival it was among Sight & Sound's 30 recommendations; according to them, "The Dardenne brothers may be the most consistently high-achieving filmmakers of our time – the kings, if you like, of poetic neorealism. Like all their films, Le Gamin au vélo (The Kid with a Bike) is near perfect."[18] Upon its March 2012 UK release, Peter Bradshaw gave it (four stars out of 5) and said it "revive[s] the memory of De Sica's 1948 classic Bicycle Thieves"; it is a "heartfelt, boldly direct film composed in the social-realist key signature of C major, revisiting the film-makers' classic themes of parenthood, trust and love."[19] Conversely, one critic called the film "trite" and its thinking "lazy",[20] while another reviewer called it "formulaic" and "superficial".[21]

Keith Uhlich of Time Out New York named The Kid with a Bike the fourth-best film of 2012, calling it "another remarkable, unsentimental stunner [from the Dardenne brothers]."[22]

Box office[edit]

The Kid with a Bike grossed $1,389,524 in North America, along with $3,786,899 in other countries, for a worldwide total of $5,176,423.[2]


The film received the Grand Prix at the Cannes film Festival, which is the festival's second most prestigious award. The win was shared with the Turkish film Once Upon a Time in Anatolia.[23] The film received a nomination at the 69th Golden Globe Awards for Best Foreign Language Film and at the Satellite Awards 2011 in the same category.[24] It was also nominated at the Independent Spirit Awards for Best International Film.[25] The St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association nominated the film for Best Foreign-Language Film, but it lost to The Intouchables.[26][27]

It received eight nominations at the 2nd Magritte Awards, including Best Film and Best Director for Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. It went on to win Most Promising Actor for Thomas Doret.[28] The film was named among the National Board of Review's Top 5 Foreign Language Films of 2012.[29] It won the Best Foreign Language Film at the San Diego Film Critics Society Awards 2012.[30]


  1. ^ "Le Gamin au vélo". JP's Box-Office.
  2. ^ a b "Le gamin au vélo (2011)". The Numbers. Retrieved 5 June 2012.
  3. ^ Lemercier, Fabien (6 May 2010). "Dardenne brothers and Kusturica in Wild Bunch line-up". Cineuropa. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "An interview with Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne" (PDF). The Kid with a Bike press kit. Wild Bunch. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  5. ^ La Porta, Domenico (28 April 2011). "Interview with Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne". Cineuropa. Retrieved 16 May 2011.
  6. ^ Lemercier, Fabien (12 July 2010). "Resnais prepares Vous N'avez Encore Rien Vu". Cineuropa. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  7. ^ a b "The Kid with a Bike (Le Gamin Au Vélo)". Screenbase. Screen International. Retrieved 17 February 2011.
  8. ^ Lavalle, Eric (4 February 2011). "Dardennes' Cannes Destined Latest Titled 'The Kid With a Bike'". Ioncinema. Retrieved 6 February 2011.
  9. ^ "Horaires 2011" (PDF). (in French). Cannes Film Festival. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  10. ^ a b "Film profile: Le gamin au vélo". Cineuropa. Retrieved 17 April 2011.
  11. ^ "Belgium Box Office: May 18–22, 2011". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
  12. ^ "Le Gamin au vélo". JP's Box-Office (in French). Retrieved 2 June 2011.
  13. ^ Kay, Jeremy (20 May 2011). "Sundance Selects rides with Dardenne brothers and Bonello". Screen Daily. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
  14. ^ Ludemann, Ralf (2 June 2011). "U.K.'s Artificial Eye Picks Up Cannes Competition Titles". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
  15. ^ "The Kid with a Bike (2011)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
  16. ^ "The Kid with a Bike". Metacritic.
  17. ^ Romney, Jonathan (15 May 2011). "The Kid with a Bike". Screen Daily. Retrieved 16 May 2011.
  18. ^ "Festival preview – London Film Festival 2011: 30 recommendations". Sight & Sound. 2011. Retrieved 24 March 2012. How to slice a festival as compendious as the LFF, with its 204 features and 110 shorts surveying much of the world’s best new cinema (and restorations) made in the past year? Consider this our first bite of the cherry: 30 fine films we’ve already seen and (mostly) written about in the magazine or on the web....The Dardenne brothers may be the most consistently high-achieving filmmakers of our time – the kings, if you like, of poetic neorealism. Like all their films, Le Gamin au vélo (The Kid with a Bike) is near perfect.
  19. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (22 March 2012). "The Kid with a Bike – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
  20. ^ ‘Bike’ never comes full-cycle, Kyle Smith, New York Post, 16 March 2012
  21. ^ Have the Dardennes fallen off their bike?, Tom Slater, Spiked, 29 March 2012
  22. ^ Uhlich, Keith (13 December 2012). "Keith Uhlich's Ten Best Movies of 2012". Time Out New York. Archived from the original on 19 December 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  23. ^ Chang, Justin (22 May 2011). "'Tree of Life' wins Palme d'Or". Variety. Retrieved 22 May 2011.
  24. ^ "2011 Winners | International Press Academy". Retrieved 17 December 2012.
  25. ^ DiMeglio, Mary J. (25 February 2012). "Independent Spirit Awards 2012: Winners List". MTV. Retrieved 17 December 2012.
  26. ^ Brackett, Kevin (12 December 2012). "St. Louis Film Critics Awards Nominees For 2012 Announced". Archived from the original on 15 December 2012. Retrieved 16 December 2012.
  27. ^ "St. Louis Critics Announce 2012 Award Winners". IndieWire. 17 December 2012. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  28. ^ Bradfer, Fabienne (4 February 2012). "Bouli Lanners et " Tête de boeuf ", les Magritte du cinéma belge". Le Soir (in French). Retrieved 12 January 2013.
  29. ^ Breznican, Anthony (5 December 2012). "National Board of Review highlights 'Compliance' actress Ann Dowd and 'Zero Dark Thirty'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
  30. ^ "San Diego Film Critics Society 2012 Awards". 11 December 2012. Retrieved 17 December 2012.

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