This French flick will have you saying “Oui!”

The Kid with a Bike (Le gam­in au v&ea­cute;lo) is a low-key, French-lan­guage film that will go un­noticed by many movie watch­ers (es­pe­cially ones that ig­nore any and all for­eign films with sub­titles).

Win­ner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Fest­iv­al, the movie of­fers some in­trigue, ex­cite­ment and glimpse of com­pas­sion in hu­man­ity.

While the bike serves a cent­ral pur­pose in the movie (and the kid cer­tainly spends a lot of time on the bike or talk­ing about it) the film is about much more.

Writ­ten and dir­ec­ted by Bel­gian broth­ers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, the movie fo­cuses on troubled young Cyril (new­comer Thomas Doret in his first movie role), whose fath­er Guy (J&ea­cute;r&ea­cute;mie Ren­i­er) has re­cently aban­doned him without a good­bye, a note or any­thing at all.

Cyril goes on a hunt to find his bi­cycle, think­ing it will lead him back to his fath­er. By chance, he meets a hairdress­er named Sam­antha (C&ea­cute;cile de France) who finds his bi­cycle and agrees to be­come his week­end guard­i­an (he spends the week­days at an orphan­age).

Un­der Sam­antha’s week­end watches, Cyril goes on a series of mis­ad­ven­tures and re­bel­lions in­volving his bi­cycle, find­ing his fath­er (who wants no place in his life) and hanging out with a bad in­flu­ence, drug-deal­ing teen­ager. He tests Sam­antha’s pa­tience every step of the way, but still, she’s de­term­ined to see the good in Cyril and help him out, thus be­com­ing a lov­ing, con­sist­ent force in his young life.

There are some dark lay­ers to the story. The re­jec­tion Cyril re­ceives from his fath­er on mul­tiple oc­ca­sions is hard to watch, but it makes things more com­pel­ling, know­ing the kid’s emo­tion­al tur­moil. Cyril’s brief for­ay in­to crim­in­al mis­chief also adds some needed ten­sion.

This is the first flick from the Dardenne broth­ers that I have seen, but they have also writ­ten and dir­ec­ted bet­ter known movies in­clud­ing L’En­fant and Rosetta. The Kid with a Bike nev­er truly wows me, but I did find it easy to stay fully en­gaged in what’s hap­pen­ing at all times. The movie dives right in­to Cyril try­ing to track down both his fath­er and bi­cycle from the open­ing mo­ments, im­me­di­ately grabbing the audi­ence.

The dra­mat­ic scenes are strong, and there are some heart­warm­ing mo­ments such as Sam­antha’s draw to the young man. Sure, it is in­ex­plic­able and al­most un­be­liev­able that a strange wo­man would take to a child she doesn’t know so quickly, but it works.

Her simple acts of kind­ness to­ward Cyril re­mind the audi­ence that some good­ness still re­mains in people.

Doret was quite the nat­ur­al for his first big screen per­form­ance. I felt like his emo­tions were real, and he was tasked with por­tray­ing everything from rage to dis­ap­point­ment to peace.

There is a nail-biter of a mo­ment to­ward the end, and it’s hard to pre­dict which way the story will go. That’s dif­fer­ent from a lot of Hol­ly­wood movies where one can pre­dict the end­ing way be­fore it hap­pens. ••

Movie Grade: B

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