This new Belgium-based melodrama takes hold from the intense focus on its 11-year-old central character, Cyril, abandoned by his father.
The Kid with a Bike (in French with English subtitles) stars 13-year-old Thomas Doret, Cecile De France and Jeremie Renier, and is directed and written with immediate spiky social realism by siblings Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (Lorna's Silence and The Son).
Their elemental, but hardly enervating story contained in a very manageable run-time features surprising natural raw talent from Doret whose desperate Cyril has ended up in a foster home and is intent on getting his bike back.
It is located by an empathetic neighbor Samantha, filled with no-nonsense integrity by De France of Mesrine: Killer Instinct and Hereafter. Cyril is touched by her generosity, and spends time with her on weekends. While she gets him on the path to knowing where his deadbeat young dad, a shaken Renier, is, he is turned on to undo a businessman by a ruffian fellow, done with dark charisma by Egon Di Mateo.
Being in Cyril's virtual space makes for concentrated unrest, concern on the part of the onlooker for his well-being to get him out is disaffected, if unhinged braggadocio. The gloomy disquietude he inhabits helps make for an uneasy intimate character study in what easily could be a variation on a classic like The Bicycle Thief or even The Dardennes' own L'Enfant which also starred Renier.
What is heart-wrenching and vivid gets by the negativity intrinsic to the storyline; Doret's affecting dominance almost sidelines Renier, Di Mateo and De France as Cyril and Samantha perhaps have a similar impulsive, impractical side. In The Kid with a Bike it's hard not to be attracted to the ways Cyril tries to take care of himself as upsetting as it may be with the openness of an untamed heart perilously finding its way to a higher spiritual plane.
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