The Dardennes return to their tales of misspent childhood in a return to form after the disappointing Lorna’s Silence. This is standard Dardenne territory and, while sticking with some of the stylistic choices made in the last film, they come together to form an altogether more cohesive whole.
Cyril is abandoned by his father – played by Dardenne stalwart Jérémie Renier – and placed in a foster home. A local hairdresser, Samantha, offers out of the sheer goodness of her own heart to care for the boy on weekends, to better integrate him into society and to provide a positive role model. Cyril appreciates this as their bond grows stronger, but he always has a lingering need to be with his father. This, as we all know, can not end well.
Seeing his chance, a local criminal known only as The Dealer takes advantage of young Cyril’s need for a male influence and entices him to commit various crimes, culminating in a clumsy attempt at serious crime that leads to realisations all round.
At times, it does all feel a bit Kevin the Teenager. Cyril, while completely charming, is a bit stereotypically moody, with none of the pure and layered fire of Rosetta, or the inner moral turmoil of Igor (some of the most convincing child characters of the Dardennes’ invented world). Maybe their increasing fame is forcing the brothers to compromise on their style a little, as their later films seem to have lost the explosive power of their earlier work. Maybe their age is mellowing them, or maybe they are just happiest painting in broader strokes now. The Kid with a Bike, if made fifteen years ago, would be stunning. Released now, it’s merely very very good.
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