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The Kid With a Bike, by brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, is a slight story the makes a sizable emotional impact. There’s not much more to the plot than the title tells you: Young Cyril (Thomas Doret) is freaking out at the beginning of the film, refusing to accept that his father not only moved without telling him where he was going, but apparently took Cyril’s bike with him. Cyril calls his dad’s old building and finally just shows up to see the empty apartment for himself, asking anyone and everywhere if they know where the former tenant went.
When Cyril gets caught being truant and tries to run away, he accidentally wraps himself around Samantha (Cecile De France), a hairdresser with a heart of gold. Samantha not only helps track down the kid’s bike but also agrees to let him live with her on the weekends. (He’s currently in a foster home, having been told by his father that the arrangement was only temporary.) They even eventually find Dad (Jeremie Renier), who turns out to be a first-class prick, telling his son that he’d call him sometime but confessing to Samantha that he’s “starting over” and just can’t take care of Cyril.
Cyril, understandably, is not happy (no mention is made of his mother) and shows it, acting like a brat to Samantha and getting into trouble with the local ne’er-do-wells. The film is largely a look at the development of Cyril and Samantha’s relationship, as well as the boy’s very, very gradual processing of the fact that he’s been abandoned. Even if you don’t quite believe that any single woman would be so kind as to accept responsibility for a strange child without, seemingly, so much as a second thought, you sympathize with her predicament—-Cyril, who can get violent, hardly speaks, and never checks in when he’s out riding his bike around town, is a handful. The story wouldn’t work, however, if it weren’t for Doret’s intense performance; you believe his every pissed-off pout and angry sprint, and feel as furious toward the father as the character is.