From Belgium and released in 2011, “The Kid With a Bike,” written and directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne, gives us a slice of life about a boy abandoned by his father. The boy, Cyril, played with unrelenting sternness by Thomas Doret, cannot accept the new circumstances of his life in a foster home. He’s angry, hurt and wants an explanation. And he also wants to know what happened to his bicycle.
The film opens as workers at the foster center chase Cyril as he escapes and heads towards the housing projects where he last saw his father. Having no respect for adults, Cyril demands a visit to his father’s last address so he can find his bike. Cyril flees into a doctor’s office, where the confused receptionist asks him if he’s hurt. The foster center worker bursts in and Cyril knocks a woman off her chair and squeezes her tightly. The woman, a hairdresser named Samantha (Cècile de France), remains calm and tells him it’s all right to hold her but don’t squeeze so tightly.
Cyril is sent back to the foster center, but he soon gets a visit from Samantha. She’s brought his bike, which she purchased from a boy in the housing project. The petulant Cyril immediately sees her as a valuable ally in his quest for his missing father, but he expresses no fondness for her. However, Samantha is a fundamentally sincere and sweet person who genuinely wants to help. Cyril plays on that by getting her to take him in to her house on weekends. She readily agrees, but Cyril will soon cause big problems for her.
Samantha helps Cyril locate his father, which turns out to be a turning point in the movie. Cyril seems unredeemable and bitter, and the loss of his father’s love makes him mean and uncontrollable despite Samantha’s compassion. Cyril gets involved with a local tough named Wes (Egon Di Mateo), a gang leader who recruits boys for robberies. Wes becomes the worst kind of surrogate father to Cyril, much to the dismay of Samantha. She warns him to stay away from Wes, but Cyril is desperate enough to defy her.
The film shows a lot of scenes of Cyril riding around on his bicycle. In one sequence, he even does a wheely to impress Samantha. A boy of his age, 12 or 13 years old, would do that. But for someone who loves his bike so much, Cyril always leaves it unlocked. When someone steals it, Cyril runs after the thief and fights him until he gets his bike back. I wondered why Cyril is so careless about his most treasured possession. A small investment in a bike lock would have saved Samantha and everyone else a lot of trouble.