When a film has the word velo in the title as Le Gamin au Velo does, you can bet the Heroes will see it. Last night, a couple of Western Heroes went to a sneak preview of the The Kid with a Bike at an old run-down theater in a small town in Idaho. Viewing the film through bike goggles, which is how we view everything, we could not help but critique the poor boy’s bike and style. “Raise your saddle!” yelled Ted Hero, unable to keep his frustration bottled up. “Shift gears!” screamed Jonathan Hero as the unwanted child spun his pedals at lightning pace while his wheels spun at a snail’s pace. Soon enough, the narrative distracted the Heroes and their misdirected critiques on pedaling style and form was forgotten.
Viewers of The Kid with a Bike may be reminded of other French language films with troubled kids. Unlike Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel (The 400 Blows), the kid in this film will take longer to like or to sympathize with. If you do find yourself sympathizing with young Cyril, you might consider a career as a public defender.
The realistic style of the directors, brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, sets The Kid with a Bike apart from recent troubled youth films. Cyril, the kid, is not a precocious genius; not a quick talking kid with an anachronistic vocabulary at the tip of his tongue a la Juno or Brick. He is simply a boy cursed with bad (what comes after bad?) parents and dealing with it the way a kid might. He is quiet and reactive. Has your niece ever spit on you? Thought so. Has your nephew ever destroyed your special secret magazines that you thought were cleverly hidden under your mattress? (That question is aimed at people who had a nephew before all the special secret magazine content you could ever need was easily available on the internet). Kids these days.
The Heroes did eventually see past Cyril’s violent tantrums and fall for the orphan. Ted Hero put it best when, during the ride home, he said: “I believe the children are the future. Teach them well and let them lead the way, show them all the beauty they possess inside, give them a sense of pride and make it easier, let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be..” An unexpected moment of wisdom and sentimentality from a normally cynical Ted.