He's just a kid who desperately needs to be wanted.
"The Kid With a Bike," a Belgian film written and directed by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, focuses on Cyril (Thomas Doret), a boy of about 11.
Cyril has been dumped at a foster home by his deadbeat father (Jérémie Renier), who promised to return for him but never does.
Cyril is like a grim-faced little bulldog, focused and full of determination as he tracks down his dad like a detective. He runs away repeatedly to get what he believes he needs. And when he sees another kid ride by on his bike, he runs after that kid to reclaim it.
He won't believe it wasn't stolen until he sees with his own eyes the ad in a shop window written by his dad, who sold it for cash.
And he won't believe his dad doesn't want him anymore, no matter how many ways it's shown to him, until he hears it from dad himself.
Cyril won't submit to authority. Desperate and scared, he won't give up his single-minded pursuit as long as he can convince himself there is hope.
What could be his salvation is a kind local hairdresser, Samantha (Cécile De France), who meets Cyril by chance and buys back his bike for him. She eventually agrees, at Cyril's request, to take him in on weekends.
What could be his undoing is a local gang leader, Wes (Egon Di Mateo), who sees in Cyril what Fagin saw in Oliver in the Charles Dickens tale. Watching how easily Wes insinuates himself into Cyril's world, manipulates him to bring him under control, you can't miss just how desperately Cyril needs to be wanted.
The Dardenne brothers are known for movies about moral choices, and they tell their stories in an unflashy, straightforward manner that steers clear of false sentiment — yet generates great depth of feeling for the characters.
All along the way, they get you asking yourself: What would you do in that situation?
Cyril is a pretty nasty, badly behaved, angry little kid. Would you take him in?
Twice in the movie, things could go very badly for Cyril. Choices must be made, even by minor characters, that will make all the difference in his future.
The Dardennes are good enough at what they do to keep you going, keep you asking questions — and not minding too much which ones have spelled-out answers, and which are left to ruminate on, long after the credits have rolled.
"The Kid With a Bike" is in French, subtitled. It was a prize winner last year at Cannes.
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