Sun 23 Sep 2012
Cyril, ‘le gamin’ in Le gamin au velo (The Kid with a Bike) has all the reasons to be angry. His father left him, after sending him to a public dormitory school he just disappeared trying to rebuild his life. Cyril (acted as only pre-teen actors can act by Thomas Doret) refuses to acknowledge reality (which is something that so many mature people do daily) and rebels against any institution (like school) or individual (like the woman who hosts and takes care of him during weekends). Anybody who can show some understanding easily gains his trust, including a very bad guy who pushes him to do a very bad deed.
This film could have turned easily into melodrama and if it does not it’s because the brothers Dardenne wrote and directed the story. They give credibility and human touch to all the characters, they judge none, not even the bad guy, not even the institutions who seem unable to understand or solve the real problems of life. The story develops naturally and when eventually things end by getting back on the right track it’s because of the belief of the characters, actors, directors, and eventually cinema viewers that life, simple gestures, the normal doing of good are the right thing to prevail. In a melodrama or in a bad drama you just want things to end well. In a good drama you believe this is the way they should end.
If Cyril is the hero, the mystery character of the film is Samantha, the woman who helps him, takes care of him, plays the role of a mother to him. As a viewer maybe I would have liked to understand more about her motivations, her personal sacrifice (at some points she has to chose between her boyfriend and the kid), why she does not have children of her own. I realize that the mystery may be intentional and that it may have been the choice of the script-writers and directors and their way of telling us ‘this is how things should be, this is how normal people should behave in unusual circumstances’ but I still miss something in understanding the character despite the wonderful acting of Cecile de France. Yet, it’s a nice and touching film.