out of Five
Running time: 87
Brilliantly directed and superbly written, this is an emotionally gripping drama from the Dardenne Brothers with a heartbreaking central performance from young Thomas Doret.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, The Kid with a Bike (Le gamin au vélo, original title fans) stars Thomas Doret as 11 year old Cyril, who escapes from the children's home where he's been dumped by his father and heads to their flat in the hopes of finding his beloved bike, only to discover that the flat is empty and his father hasn't left a forwarding address. When his carers come after him, Cyril runs into a doctor's waiting room and clings to the legs of kindly hairdresser Samantha (Cécile de France), who takes immediate pity on Cyril and eventually agrees to foster him at weekends.
However, though they eventually find Cyril's bike, Cyril's father (Jérémie Renier) doesn't want to know and despite Samantha's warnings, Cyril finds himself drawn to local thug Wes (Egon Di Mateo), who has his own plans for the boy.
Newcomer Thomas Doret is utterly heartbreaking as Cyril, refusing to accept the truth about his father and lashing out at anyone who tries to help. There's an extraordinary intensity to his performance that's utterly gripping to watch, heightened by the fact that, in typical Dardennes style, he's in every scene and the camera follows him relentlessly as he charges around on his bike.
Cécile de France is equally good as Samantha, who quickly comes to realise she's not really qualified to look after Cyril and may have bitten off more than he can chew; their tentative relationship forms the heart of the film and is extremely moving. One of her best moments occurs early on – the expression on her face when Cyril is clinging to her legs in the doctor's waiting room (a brilliantly directed scene) tells you everything you need to know and explains, in a single stroke, why she agrees to help the boy.
The film is beautifully shot by the Dardennes' regular cinematographer Alain Marcoen, though there aren't quite as many follow-the-back-of-the-head shots as you'd normally expect from a Dardennes film. In addition, the script is brilliantly written and every moment of the film feels completely true – by the same token, it's so emotionally involving that you'll find yourself wanting to yell at the screen whenever Cyril takes an obviously wrong turn.
The Dardennes have done it again. Like all their films, The Kid with a Bike is a brilliantly directed, superbly written and terrifically acted drama that exerts a powerful emotional grip. Unmissable and one of the best films of the year.