Famous auteurs occasionally cruise through material so smoothly we misjudge potentially complex efforts as minor. I fear Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes new film, The Kid with a Bike, will be seen as such a film and get overlooked due to its short running time, concisely linear storyline, and almost perfectly aligned mosaic of fatherly failures. Like their masterpiece The Son, the Dardennes insist on destroying stereotypes regarding familial relationships. Yet in The Kid with a Bike they craft an entire film around one young boy’s relentless pursuit of home and protection, packing each frame with a sense of unlimited persistence. Still, the child’s search for identity can be easily manipulated, and the film’s most cutting moments come when adult indifference preys on the gullibility of youth for selfish ends.
An enduring drive propels 11-year-old Cyril (Thomas Dorset) to ignore the writing on the wall that his young father, Guy (Jérémie Renier), has indefinitely left him to the care of a state-run facility. The opening sequence introduces Cyril’s durability and directionality, as the boy escapes and heads toward his now abandoned apartment looking for his father and beloved bike. This trend of catch and release continues throughout The Kid with a Bike—Cyril running or riding away from places he hates for those that might represent home. His struggle is consistent, with every scene dedicated to Cyril outmaneuvering adults and roaming from one father figure to the next.