Le gamin au vélo [The Kid with a Bike] (2011)

Le gamin au vélo
Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Writer: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Cast: Thomas Doret, Cécile De France, Jérémie Renier

Cyril (Thomas Doret) lives in a foster home and tries desperately to find his dad  (Jérémie Renier) who not only vanished from Cyril’s life but took Cyril’s bike with him. On one of Cyril’s excursions he makes contact with Samantha (Cécile De France). She finds Cyril’s bike and then even agrees to have Cyril visiting her on weekends. But his way is a rocky one.

The film has its weaknesses – mostly a weird ambiguity between naivité and realism – but it also has a very strong cast and captures Cyril and his situation perfectly.

I had expected the film to be a little more “artsy” and a little less on the entertaining side, but I was quite pleased at the way it turned out. The Dardennes just take a close look at Cyril as a character, but also as one of many boys in the foster system and that works extremely well. I think they manage that because they are fair to both the foster care Cyril is in and Cyril himself – he’s aggressive and unapproachable, but also vulnerable and lost.

Of course, this wouldn’t have worked at all if Thomas Doret wasn’t as good as he is in this film. Rarely have I seen a child who can look so sad and desperate. Cécile de France was also excellent, as usual, despite the fact that Samantha is a lot thinner than Cyril and would have profited from a little more substance. But it’s proof of her talent that you believe Samantha anyway. Jérémie Renier pulls off the same thing with his Guy.

But where the film falters is its strange mixed in naivité. I get that the Dardennes were trying to tell the story from Cyril’s perspective, while trying to remain realistic (therefore leaving things out that a child wouldn’t care for; like how Samantha gets the permission to have Cyril visit in the first place) but while they succeed with the realism, the innocence felt a little out of place and the ending felt much too positive for me.

In any case I was completely caught up in the film and I did enjoy it.

Summarising: good, but not wow.

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