Cyril (Thomas Doret) is an unruly twelve-year old who moves into an orphanage after being abandoned by his father (Jérémie Rénier). The kid is obsessed with finding a father who’s gone missing and who also sold the boy’s beloved bike.
His path crosses Samantha’s (Cécile de France), a hairdresser who will eventually become his surrogate family and accept to take the boy in on weekends. She buys back his bike, helps him find his father who keeps dodging him and puts a stop to the local gang’s shenanigans.
Through some feverish bicycling sessions and a couple of adventures that could turn out badly but don’t, Cyril works off his rage and a fear of abandonment until he and Samantha become a family of sorts.
We’re deep in Dardenne country. The Kid with the Bike is filmed in the same realistic vein that we’ve grown accustomed to with their previous films–it’s so real in fact that it can become difficult to watch Kid sometimes, just like as if we’d stumbled onto a private garden not meant for us to see.
Much like other films by the Belgian siblings, Kid shows pathetic individuals to whom life happens rather than the other way around. And whereas lesser filmmakers would spend a gratuitous amount of time trying to square a narrative with the characters’ background or motivation (why does Samantha take in the boy, why does his father reject him, why is anyone kind, why is anyone irresponsible?), the Dardennes leave things be and usually don’t include a satisfactory conclusion in their film.
Despite its pitiable main character, The Kid on the Bike is not as bleak as Lorna and The Son, the only other Dardenne movies I’ve seen. Samantha’s generosity toward the kid is the film’s strong feature of redemption.
Of note, there’s a little bit of music in this movie, something rarely encountered in the Dardenne opus. But even here, the intrusion is discreet. A few soaring Beethoven notes repeated several times, and a longer piece from the “Emperor” concerto played during the end credits. A perfect choice of a musical score. And a very good film.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles on March 16th, 2012.