The Kid with a bike

Original title or aka: Le gamin au vélo

Director: Jean Pierre and Luc Dardennes.
Starring: Thomas Doret, Cecile de France, Jeremie Renier
Distributor: Madman Entertainment
Runtime: 84 mins. Reviewed in Mar 2012
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: mature themes and infrequent coarse language

For insight into people and into their social contexts, audiences have found the films of the Dardennes Brothers from Liege movingly and expertly made. The brothers have twice won the Palme d’Or in Cannes (for Rosetta in 1998 and for The Child in 2005). They won the Special Jury Prize for this one.

This is a brief film, running under 90 minutes, more like a short story but no less effective for that. It opens instantly with a disturbed young boy resisting the efforts of a counsellor as he rings and rings his father’s phone number – which has been disconnected. Then he runs. Cyril (Thomas Doret in a completely convincing performance, his first and so far only screen appearance) has been left at a school a month earlier and his father has disappeared. He has also sold his son’s bike.

When Cyril eludes teachers to go to his father’s last address, he takes refuge in a doctor’s waiting room, clinging to a woman so that he won’t be dragged away. This begins a new relationship which could save Cyril from himself and his disappointment with his father. The woman, Samantha, is played by that fine actress, Cecile de France.

Audiences will have formed strong opinions about Cyril and his irascible, brat-like behaviour and attitudes which are hard to take. Whether they will immediately identify with Samantha and her kindness and patience or will take a longer time to come to terms with the disturbed boy gives the film quite some emotional tension.

The impact is in the small detail: Samantha offering to take Cyril for weekends, his initial surly manner and conduct, her efforts to track down his father (Jeremie Renier, who was the irresponsible father in The Child), her taking Cyril to a fun fair with her boyfriend. Cyril is desperate for loving attention and falls in with a local gang which leads to some disastrous behaviour. Despite all this, Samantha continues to help Cyril.

Just before the end, when we might think and hope that all will be well, there are some violent moments – then Cyril riding his bike towards his future with some confidence. Not a neat ending, but hopeful for a finely made and thoughtful film.

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