Like most Dardenne films, this one takes place in their home town in Belgium and has an almost documentary-like feel. They never “comment” on the action, allowing us to respond as we choose.
From the opening moments, we are drawn into the life of a boy who is bursting with anger. We meet him as he determinedly, desperately tries to escape from an orphanage which seems to be quite pleasant, staffed by decent people. But all Cyril (Thomas Doret) wants is to get away and find his father, who deposited him there with the false promise of returning. Through sheer circumstance he meets a woman (Cécile de France) who runs a hair salon in town and takes an interest in him. She offers to let him stay with her on weekends, and shows him every possible kindness…but Cyril is incapable of responding to her, at first.
The Dardennes haven’t lacked for recognition in their career, but this past year The Kid with a Bike was passed over as Belgium’s official entry for the Academy Awards as Best Foreign Language Film in favor of Bullhead. While I respect that film, and its young writer-director, this one affected me more.