Empathetic realism: Belgian brothers avoid sentimentality

The fierce young boy is always in motion, his face screwed up in determination, pedaling his bike, running through the streets, pounding on doors and windows, demanding, demanding. He demands the love of his father, but lacking that he wants his bike, and the acceptance of the woman who has become his foster mother on weekends, and recognition from Wes, the teenaged neighborhood hoodlum.

He is named Cyril, and as played here by Thomas Doret he becomes an indelible portrait of need. We meet him first in an official boys home, where he was dumped by a father who promised to return but never has. Like a young detective, he methodically tracks him down – visiting the bar and pastry shop his dad took him to, calling a number that is always disconnected, talking his way into his dad's former apartment, where he is sure he will find his bicycle and perhaps Guy (Jeremie Renier), his father.

"The Kid With a Bike" is another empathetic film by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, the brothers from Belgium who have strong sympathy for alienated children and young people, and who avoid melodrama and sensation in telling their stories so movingly. There are two things that could go seriously wrong in young Cyril's life, but they don't quite happen. The Dardennes don't wring us out like that. They prefer the drama of ordinary life, in which for a boy like Cyril things don't easily go right. In straightforward, realistic scenes, they show a boy who fears he has been thrown away, but persists in feeling that his father only lost him and will be happy to find him again. Full Review

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