Belgium’s directing duo, the Dardenne brothers, have brought forth another strong film that tells a very human story in a no frills way. The Grand Jury Prize winners at Cannes this past year keep their momentum going with The Kid with a Bike, another captivating film under their directorial belt.
The film follows 11- year-old Cyril (newcomer Thomas Doret) as he searches for his father, who has left him at an orphanage. Through his search, he oddly connects with a local hairdresser, Samantha (Cecile De France, Hereafter), who agrees to provide foster care for him on weekends. As Samantha fights to keep him safe and away from bad influences, their struggles begin to unfold.
As the story evolves, you desperately see Cyril’s desire to connect with people while at the same time aggressively pushing them away. His earnest desire and resourcefulness rings very honest and true. It's as if you are watching a documentary play out, with the neo-realism signature of Dardenne films.
You see Cyril’s yearning to find a parent who has ultimately abandoned him, and the emotional unease caused by that abandonment. You have compassion for Cyril, but at the same time have real frustrations with his actions. In some moments you want to wring his neck, and at other times you completely empathize with him.
Thomas Doret, who plays young Cyril, is a first-time actor, and manages to capture this young boy’s angst, pain and passion all at the same time. The Dardenne brothers like to cast unknown actors and underplay the obvious emotional clichés, so not to purposefully rely on them. They also stay loyal and cast the same strong actors time and time again, including Jeremie Renier (Lenfant, In Bruges), who plays Cyril’s father Guy.
When you leave the film, it stays with you long after. The Kid with a Bike takes you along a beautiful, yet emotional journey, and rings true because we are all just grown-up children seeking a parent’s love and approval.
The Kid with a Bike releases March 16.