“The Kid with a Bike,” directed by Belgian brothers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, is another volume on the shelf of their continuing attempt to realistically portray the lives of those on the fringes, those we might distantly know or hear about in the news, but whose full story is often obscured or dishonestly told. I have seen several other films by them, and they deal with serious matters involving the family.
In this newest work (2011; The Criterion Collection), a young boy is seeking some restoration of the family he once had. As the film opens, Cyril is in foster care and is desperately trying to establish contact with his father, who has moved to another town and expressed little interest in his own child. But this does not stop the boy from striking out on his own initiative to find him. Along the way, he (literally) runs into a young woman in a doctor’s office whose care for him in the near future may mean all the difference for young Cyril.
In the hands of some filmmakers, a story like this could easily slip into the maudlin and even manipulative kind of storytelling we find much of nowadays. But the Dardennes are different. This doesn’t mean they are out to tell a cruel or depressing naturalistic story about a lost child. Rather, they want to tell it straightforwardly so we can see more clearly the worth of human beings and the stories we encounter every day. This means the viewer may not always have his expectations met, especially when it comes to endings and the resolution of a story’s loose ends. But pay attention, and you will find some beautiful and surprising moments of grace that are told so unpretentiously and quietly that the viewer just might miss them.
Posted by: David