The Kid with a Bike (2011)

Le gamin au vélo
Feature Film | Drama | Belgium/France/Italy | French | 1h27m
Dir: Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne | Scr: Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne | DP: Alain Marcoen | Prod: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, & Denis Freyd | Ed: Marie-Helene Dozo | Cast: Thomas Doret, Cécile De France, Jérémie Renier, Fabrizio Rongione, Egon Di Mateo
When his father (Renier) disappears, a young boy (Doret), living in a children’s home, convinces a kindly hairdresser (De France) to foster him at weekends, giving him the opportunity and allowing him the time to explore his old neighbourhood on his beloved bike in an attempt to locate the missing parent, in the Dardenne brothers gripping and gently affecting, if never entirely convincing (details wise) social realist drama-cum-thriller – a subgenre of which they have become masters. Eventually, with the help of his part-time foster mother, he does locate him; but, when the great and happy reunion of which he has dreamt for so long fails to materialise, he falls in with a bad crowd, and eventually commits a heinous act. Luckily, though he is slow to realise it, he does have genuine love in his life.

The very physical and entirely convincing performance of Doret in the central role is the film’s greatest strength – a portrayal of rare authenticity from someone so young. De France’s turn also proves affecting. And the Dardennes typically dynamic direction grips throughout. However, there are several plot points that fail to convince, and the whole thing is concluded just a little too easily and far too tidily, leaving The Kid with a Bike, the Belgian duo's eighth feature, just below the level of their best work. Highly recommended, never the less.