'The Kid With a Bike': Uplifting tale of a boy's search for his dad

A version of this review appeared in October during coverage of the Philadelphia Film Festival.

Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne are responsible for some bracing pieces of social realism - La Promesse, Lorna's Silence, The Child - films that explore the bleak terrain of trailer parks and public housing, of people caught up in prostitution, drugs, or simply struggling to get by. Damaged souls, looking for a life.

play an abandoned boy and the woman who helps him in his search for his father.

In The Kid With a Bike, the Dardennes train their camera on a fiercely determined 11-year-old, Cyril (an amazingly unself-conscious Thomas Doret), who has been abandoned by his father - and who finds a savior in the form of an empathetic hairdresser (Cecile de France). Cyril, trapped in a foster home, is determined to track down his deadbeat dad, and de France's Samantha, his guardian angel, gets caught up in the boy's sad, determined - and, it turns out, dangerous - quest.

The Dardennes' deceptively simple approach to storytelling, their attentiveness to place and people, and the incredible work they get from their actors are things to admire. Their films resonate on a deep emotional level - and The Kid With a Bike is no exception. The journey Cyril takes, and the help he gets from de France's Samantha - a woman whose own childhood, clearly, was permeated with pain - is a hard one. But it's uplifting, too, with moments of magic and grace. The Kid With a Bike grabs at the heart.

Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at www.philly.com/onmovies.


The Kid With a Bike (Le Gamin au Velo)

Directed by Luc Dardenne, Jean-Pierre Dardenne. With Jérémie Renier, Cécile De France, Fabrizio Rongione, Thomas Doret, Egon Di Mateo. Distributed by IFC Films.

Running time: 1 hours, 27 minutes.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (for thematic elements, violence, brief language and smoking).