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aka - Gamin Au Vélo, Le
Belgium 2011
Directed by
Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne
87 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3.5 stars

Kid With A Bike,The

Synopsis: Cyril (Thomas Doret) is an angry, wild 11-year-old whose father. Guy (Jérémie Renier) has placed in state care while he sorts his life out. Cyril refuses to believe that his father has abandoned him, and, even worse, sold his bicycle. When Cyril is trying to elude his carers, he literally runs into Samantha (Cécile de France), and it comes to pass that she takes on a part-time role of foster parenting the boy on weekends.

The Dardenne brothers are renowned for films with a strong humanistic and compassionate themes, often featuring adult/child relationships. This film, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes last year sits firmly within their oeuvre.

Understated is the key word for everything about this film. Nothing is laboured or sensationalized, yet the intensity of emotion it evokes is quite extraordinary. Much of this is due to the fortunate choice of the young actor who plays Cyril, the lad who is at the film’s core. The boy has a pugnacious attitude centred on his dogged determination to track down his Dad who has disappeared from the flat where they lived. There are moments one almost loathes the kid for his intractable fixation yet intense sympathy is also evoked for there is also a strong love and even idealization of his rather useless father at work here. In many scenes the camera tracks the kid as he peddles frantically and  tirelessly, panning alongside him for long periods of time, making us feel the determination and desperation of everything Cyril does.

Cécile de France is also strong in the only other major role. as Samantha, a no-nonsense hairdresser who accedes to Cyril’s request to stay with her on weekends and gradually becomes a foster parent to him. However, here some questions kick in. We are not given any explanation as to why she takes on this vexatious kid and the Dardennes clearly don’t feel any need to provide one. As we see later in the film, when Samantha is forced to choose between Cyril and her boyfriend, her commitment to her charge is suprisingly strong. Her commitment, indeed the very mechanics of how she gets involved in the story in the first place, are simply assumed within the narrative.  Another troubling incident involves Cyril's involvement with a local bad boy despite all of Samantha’s exhortations. The upshot of a rather shocking incident seems too simplistically and easily resolved for my taste (and the incident itself is oddly superficial in execution).  Once again, and this is typical enough of the social realist tradition of film-making to which the brotehrs belong, the Dardennes want us to simply assume the details as given while they focus on the film's broader theme of the evolving relationship between Samantha and the boy and the benign effects of human kindness in general.

Despite my reservations, the film feels authentic throughout and the kid’s emotions are there in a palpable way that makes us realise the vulnerability beneath his aggressive behaviour. There is no indulgence in manipulative pulling of our heart-strings and yet we do feel for this rejected boy.




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