The Kid With a Bike (2011)
directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
starring Thomas Doret and Cecile de France
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I liked this movie a lot. It's a pretty simple story: Cyril is an eleven year old boy who is put in a boys' home after his father abandons him. He spends a lot of time trying to track down his dad, running back to the housing estate where he used to live, heartbreaking in his queries to the locals about whether they know where his dad has gone. The people who work at the home, who always bring him back, are pretty sympathetic, but they know what Cyril doesn't: that his dad doesn't want to be found and is not capable of caring for him.
By chance, Cyril meets a nice woman, Samantha, who agrees to take him in as a foster mom on weekends. Will she be his salvation? It is difficult, because Cyril is a wounded child and acts in predictably self-destructive ways. This sounds like it could be the setup for a melodramatic movie of the week, but it isn't. It's a very simple story, and it's told well. We can understand why Cyril acts the way he does. He's vulnerable, because he desperately wants a father, and he's naive because he's only eleven.
I really liked how this movie unfolded. It's beautifully shot, well paced, and simply told. It has quite a few moments of natural suspense, but it never feels like the directors are playing cheap tricks on their audience. The cast is excellent; Thomas Doret, who plays Cyril, is so natural that I honestly forgot I was watching an actor and started to believe he WAS Cyril. Cecile de France's character Samantha is a little bit of a mystery as a secondary (but very important) character, but she is warm and real and very good in her role.
If you like simple human dramas told with empathy, I would recommend this movie.