Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne once quipped that truth is never as interesting as fiction. That is a confusing statement given that their fiction often feels so truthful.
The same can be said for their latest effort “The Kid with a Bike.” Like its title, the film is tiny and simple. When Cyril is abandoned at a foster home by his father, he cannot believe that his father does not want him back. Determined to live with his father, Cyril continually attempts to escape the foster home. During one such escape attempt, he garners the attention of Samantha, the town hairdresser, who, in an unexplained random act of kindness, agrees to take the boy in on weekends.
Cyril is a remarkable and frustrating little boy. He is clearly troubled, and that frustration is matched only by his resilience and stubbornness. Young Thomas Doret plays him with such effortless determination; I believed every word and action Cyril took. I felt his pain, even if I didn’t know the source of it.
There is little in the way of plot in “The Kid with a Bike,” but that is one of its assets. Suffice it to say, Cyril falls in with the wrong crowd, runs into his father, and continues to have his bike stolen over the films brisk 86-minute running time.
“The Kid with a Bike” is a delightful little movie, so simple on the surface, but so spiritually and emotionally rich. It’s a rare gem that borrows from many portraits of lost little boys before it, namely “The Red Balloon.” There is little to say about “The Kid with a Bike” other than how confident and assured it is. The Dardenne’s have such a controlled and deft hand that “The Kid with a Bike” feels like it will be loved and studied for many years to come. They let their frames breathe and their characters wander through them. As a result, their characters are such a part of their space that “The Kid with a Bike” becomes a remarkable slice-of-life piece.
Aside from two complaints, I loved this film. First, as I mentioned before, Samantha’s motivation is never quite clear, and the film does not seem to care. Normally, this would not matter, the extent to which she is able to put up with Cyril’s antics draw attention to her. Secondly, “The Kid with a Bike” is so slight it almost feels weightless. Particularly at the end, I at times felt that what I was watching had a heavier significance than I could initially discern.