Starring: Thomas Doret, Cecile de France, Jeremie Renier
Director: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Category: IIA (French)
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's film begins with its 11-year-old protagonist, Cyril (Thomas Doret), escaping from a boys' home and heading to the apartment he used to live in.
More than just to find the father who has abandoned him, he's there to find the only other thing that he needs to make sense of his existence - the bicycle his father has taken away from him, alongside his hopes for a happy life.
It's hard not to notice the nod to Vittorio di Sica's The Bicycle Thieves, the neo-realist socio-tragedy that can be seen as a precursor to the Dardennes' now-trademark gritty aesthetic. It's perhaps a surprise, therefore, that The Kid With A Bike is perhaps the Belgian brothers' most sanguine fable to date.
Perhaps this has something to do with the Dardennes' break from their usual way of making films about grey post-industrial cityscapes with a comparatively unknown cast.
While Bike is still set, like most of their previous movies, in the city of Seraing, The Kid With A Bike boasts much sun (the story unfolds in summer) and a well-established star (Cecile de France, below with Doret).
Nevertheless, the film's emotional core lies in an angst-ridden boy who is always on the move but never knows where he's headed. Cyril finally finds solace in Samantha (De France), a kind and somewhat lonely hairdresser who agrees to take care of him.
When Samantha finally brings him to meet his father, Guy (Jeremie Renier), she tells him he shouldn't get his hopes up for a reconciliation. 'I'm not dreaming,' Cyril replies. But dream we do, as the boy overcomes rejection by making new social bonds, both with Samantha and his peers over football and friendly small talk.
Despite the story moving into darker territory as Cyril become entangled in a shady scheme with a delinquent to try and alleviate his father's problems, the film remains somewhat upbeat.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the filmmakers' canniness in observing characters and their environments remains. While it might not rank alongside the Dardennes' best - Rosetta or The Child - The Kid remains vivid and engaging.
The Kid With A Bike opens today