“The Kid with a Bike”: A Lost Boy Navigates a Modern Fairy Tale

In the new film from Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Cyril (Thomas Doret), a scrappy 11-year-old living in an urban orphanage, flees school in an attempt to track down both his deadbeat dad (Jeremie Renier) and the bike he left at his dad's house. On the lam, Cyril carelessly crashes into Samantha (Cecile de France), a hairdresser with a shop in Dad's former neighborhood, and impulsively asks her to be his foster mom. In what plays within the Dardennes' understated naturalism as a shocking twist, she agrees. This tentative new family is threatened when Cyril, desperate for male mentorship, falls prey to the manipulations of Wes (Egon Di Mateo), a slick teenage thug. The second half of the film consists of a fight for Cyril's soul, with the straight-and-narrow Samantha on one side and the marginal milieu of Wes's gang, who lures Cyril into the forest on the outskirts of town, on the other. In placing an unformed boy in limbo between an angelic godmother and wolves in the woods, The Kid With a Bike becomes a fairy tale. It seems to unfold in a different world than that of previous Dardenne films, one with a wider range of spiritual and practical possibilities. It's set in the summer, the T-shirted boy moving against a palette of primary colors and hazy, warm light — the vibe is hopeful. It's still a version of the filmmakers' constant inquiry into moral consciousness but on a new path and with a new destination—a tentative happy ending.

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