The Kid With a Bike (Belgium/France/Italy)

2011 Belgium/France/Italy

SUNDAY 16TH JUNE 10.00 am


Abandoned by his father, young Cyril (Thomas Doret) is left in a state-run youth centre in provincial France. In a random act of kindness, the town hairdresser, Samantha (Cecile De France) agrees to foster him on weekends. She gets more than she bargained for.


An astonishing performance by young Thomas Doret as Cyril delivers the core of this well crafted, subtle yet powerful screenplay, which has won several accolades for the Dardennes brothers, starting with the film winning the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes (2011). Doret’s performance brings to mind the young Jean-Pierre Leaud as Antoine Doinel in Francois Truffaut’s 1959 classic, The 400 Blows, a character not unlike Cyril in some respects.

The film belongs to Doret, as we see Cyril struggling to cope with the emotional, and to a lesser extent physical, discomforts of being abandoned by his father (Jeremy Renier). Cyril, about 11, is already motherless, although we never hear about her or why she is absent. A feisty, determined kid, he runs away from the state institution to try and find his father – and then his push bike. The former shuns him; the latter is stolen from him.

At his most vulnerable, Cyril finds an angel in the form of humble hairdresser Samantha (Cecile De France) who agrees to his request to spend weekends with her. But his inner pain bursts out and he’s too hard to handle. She fears his association with a local tough guy, Wes (Egon Di Mateo) will prove disastrous – which it does. Di Mateo is terrific.

The Dardennes avoid making the film sentimental and sidestep every cliché that beckons. Subtly, they nurse the story along without the heavy handed intervention that fiction sometimes urges, and allow us to gain some understanding into Cyril’s inner self. Samantha’s reasons for accepting the task of part time foster mother aren’t articulated either; she shrugs when he asks. But in her actions it’s easy to see the real reasons: she cares for the boy in a way that is both natural and unheroic, but sincere. The Dardennes already have a cupboard full of awards from Cannes (and elsewhere) and we can see why: they make cinema that is challenging yet accessible, sharply observed and emotionally authentic, as they explore the human condition.