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By Francesca McCaffery

The Kid with a Bike (Le Gamin au vélo) is the latest film from Belgian filmmaking brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, who both wrote and directed. It stars Cécile de France, and the astonishing young newcomer- Thomas Doret.

Thomas plays Cyril, a young boy who has been abandoned to a children’s home by his father, and can’t quite seem to accept this fact. He also keeps insisting that he needs to find his bike, that his father never would have left it at their old place, or sold it. If his bike is still there, his father must surely be around, too…

Desperate for some real answers, and certainly some closure, he momentarily escapes the children’s home with his caretakers in hot pursuit. As Cyril rushes back to his old apartment building, he spots a neighbor boy riding around on his bike. As the caretakers chase him through his former stomping grounds, he rushes into a nearby medical center, literally slamming into the arms of Samantha (a parfait Cécile de France)  As his caretakers drag him away, he clasps onto her, begging her for her help. They bring him to his old apartment to show him his father was, indeed, gone. The next day, Samantha brings his bike back to Cyril, (after buying it back from the neighbors) and he requests to go to her place on the weekends. They even track down his father together, to some uneasy results.  Cyril is then, very soon, looking for anyone to replace his father.

The film plays out as kindly hairdresser Samantha, for reasons completely unknown to us, sticks with Cyril through thick and thin. This unconditional love is a theme of the Roman Catholic Dardennes, and the deeper religious themes of forgiveness and repenting are also so present in their other films, such as “The Son” and “Rosetta.” Here, we don’t quite know why Samantha has chosen to look after Cyril as she does, to love him, essentially, as her own. And we simply don’t care! It is just amazing to feel that there are others like Samantha out there…

As Cyril pedals furiously away on his bike, desperately searching, searching, searching-he must learn to live with the horrifying fact that his father is truly absent from his life, and most likely, always will be.
This film shows how beautiful life can be when the truth is not only become an accepted fact, but looked upon as a supreme blessing.

Doret and de France are absolutely  incredible together, and the film could seem at once fifty years or five minutes old- suspending place and time and style in a manner that is breath-taking and spirited. It is simply a lovely, lovely little film, and so deeply felt. It will make you wonder why more people don’t have it in their hearts to be more like Samantha- letting their hearts do all the leading in the dance of life.

Opens in NY and LA today. Go and see this heart-warming and heart-breaking little film. We promise, you will adore it as much as we did….


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