4 stars
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Overall Grade
4 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4 Stars
HD Video Quality
4.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4 Stars
2.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
3 Stars
Bottom Line

The Kid with a Bike

Street Date:
February 12th, 2013
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
February 11th, 2013
Movie Release Year:
87 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Cyril (Thomas Doret) is a deeply troubled boy, who may or may not be suffering from a learning disorder. The way he acts, and more importantly acts out, would point to a type of high-functioning autism. The poor kid just can't catch a break.

Cyril lives at a home for boys. He goes to school there, but he's confused as to why he hasn't seen his father for a while. He's convinced that his dad's just innocently forgotten about him because he's been so busy. Coming to the realization that his father is a deadbeat is one of the many tough lessons young Cyril must learn.

Samantha (Cécile De France) is a dream come true for child services. She's caring almost to a fault. She meets Cyril by happenstance after he escapes the boy's home on a search for his dad and bike. She's instantly drawn to him. Cyril asks if he can stay at her house on the weekends, she eagerly agrees.

'The Kid with a Bike' is directed with magnificent minimalism by brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. No tricky effects. No complex storylines. Hardly any music on the soundtrack. Instead the Dardennes approach the movie with a voyeuristic attitude. Almost like we're looking in on a child's life rather than watching one acted out.

I guess that speaks to the abilities of child actor Thomas Doret, who effortlessly provides Cyril the necessary mania for the character. I found myself wanting to simultaneously smack and coddle him. I have a strong feeling Samantha feels the same way.

Life is messy, Cyril's life doubly so. The deck has been stacked against him from the beginning. His anger has gone unchecked. It's impossible to blame him solely for his behavior, even though much of the movie is based on Cyril trying to change himself. He's a victim of circumstance, but that doesn't mean he can't better himself.

I was struck by Samantha. What a patient woman. She puts up with Cyril's outrageous, and at times dangerous, behavior because she knows deep down that he can be something different. She understands Cyril's background and realizes that he has potential. Like all potential, it needs to be nourished. So she weathers the storms, hoping for a brighter future.

I was struck by Samantha. What a patient woman. She puts up with Cyril's outrageous, and at times dangerous behavior because she knows deep down that he can be something different. She understands Cyril's background and realizes that he has potential. Like all potential, it needs to be nourished. So she weathers the storms, hoping for a brighter future.

Here is a movie that strengthens resolve and promotes sacrifice. A movie that renews a little faith in humanity.

Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

'The Kid with a Bike' is a Criterion release. It comes on a 50GB Blu-ray Disc and is packaged in Criterion's trademark clear keepcase. Like all Criterion Blu-ray releases this one comes with a booklet. This booklet is 16 pages long. It discusses details about the movie's transfer. It also contains an essay written by Head of Film Programming at London's BFI Southbank Geoff Andrew called "Motion and Emotion." The spine number is 646. The case states that this is a Region A-only release.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Even though the movie is filmed with handheld cameras, the picture still ends up being a strikingly clear image. Usually I'm not a fan of handheld filming, but the Dardenne brothers are able to perfectly capture the frantic energy of Cyril's life without it looking like a shaky-cam nausea-fest. The 1080p transfer culled from a 35mm source.

'The Kid with a Bike' nearly fills the screen with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Yes, the movie was filmed recently, but that doesn't mean that the transfer doesn't have Criterion's fingerprints all over it. It's an understated film visually, and yet this transfer is able to draw attention to its beauty. The soft color palette is easy on the eyes. Detail is outstandingly clear. From the lightly freckled face of Doret to the surprisingly toned arms of De France, the presentation reveals as many details as it possibly could.

Pitch black shadows add depth to the movie. Crushing is never a problem. Compression errors are nowhere to be seen. This is another astoundingly clear, universally rich Criterion transfer.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

It's a straight-forward talkative drama. The DTS-HD Master Audio does its part in providing a well-rounded ambient atmosphere even though most of the audio is centered up front.

The movie has a very limited musical soundtrack, but when it kicks in at key moments in the film the rear speakers fill up with music providing an unexpected encompassing feeling. Dialogue is always clear and delivered cleanly through the center channel. The front channels work well in tandem as they corral the movie's directional sound like ambient street noise, cars passing from one edge of the frame to the other, and children running back and forth playing a soccer game.

There aren't any bells and whistles on a track like this. It's an understated soundscape, but Criterion has done a great job eliciting the needed elements from all of the available channels.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • Cecile de France (HD, 19 min.) — The lead actress gives a brief overview about her involvement with the movie and what she thought of the script when it was originally presented to her.
  • Return to Seraing (HD, 34 min.) — A filmmaking special feature where the directors specifically talk about how certain scenes were filmed.
  • Trailer (HD, 3 min.) — The trailer is included.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

Both of these interviews were filmed specifically for this Criterion release.

  • Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (HD, 74 min.) — This lengthy interview contains a wealth of information from the directors. They discuss the origins of the story, how they developed it into a movie, the characters, their arcs, camera placement, and so on. Film Critic Kent Jones moderates the discussion.
  • Thomas Doret (HD, 6 min.) — The actor talks about his casting process and what it was like shooting the movie.

Final Thoughts

I won't blame you if, while watching 'The Kid with a Bike', you feel like you want to throttle young Cyril. It seems predestined that a person like Samantha is out there. Her endless patience and selflessness are beautifully affecting. One of the most likeable movie characters in recent memory. Criterion junkies will no doubt buy this title regardless, however, for everyone else, 'The Kid with a Bike' is strongly recommended.

Technical Specs

  • BD-50 Blu-ray Disc

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.85:1

Audio Formats

  • French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1


  • English


  • A booklet featuring an essay by critic Geoff Andrew
  • Interview with Cécile de France
  • Return to Seraing
  • Trailer

Exclusive HD Content

  • Conversation between film critic Kent Jones and directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
  • Interview with Thomas Doret

All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

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