Brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes have a simple strategy: Show working-class characters in crisis moments, capture the moment with handheld cameras and watch the emotional fireworks whether it's the struggling teens of "Rosetta" and "The Son," the desperate immigrants of "La Promesse" and "Lorna's Silence" or the over-their-heads parents in "The Child."
The Belgian brothers return with another affecting slice-of-life drama in "The Kid With a Bike," and even enlist one of France's better-known stars, CÃ©cile De France, to join their world of people doing what they must to get by.
The title character is Cyril (Thomas Doret), a 10-year-old living unwillingly in a foster-care facility. He's desperate to escape the place, to find his father, who abandoned him a month earlier. During one such escape attempt, Cyril makes it to the apartment he and his dad once shared and runs into Samantha (played by De France), a hairdresser who offers to become his weekend foster parent.
But caring for Cyril is no picnic. At first, his presence riles Samantha's boyfriend Gilles (Laurent Canon), as Samantha helps Cyril locate his father (JÃ©rÃ©mie Renier) with shattering consequences. Then there's the peer pressure exerted when Cyril falls in with a neighborhood drug dealer (Egon Di Mateo).
Filming in and around Liege, Belgium, the Dardennes employ no-frills methods and an unwavering focus to capture its characters' daily struggle. They also draw rugged, naturalistic performances from newcomer Doret and from De France, a star known in France ("Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1," "Avenue Montaigne") and in America (including in Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter").
"The Kid With a Bike" unfolds at the speed of life, giving us the time to meet these two characters a boy trying to regain a relationship that is lost to him, and a good-hearted woman reaching out to help him start a new life and, more amazingly, come to care about what happens to them after the credits roll.
'The Kid With a Bike'
A lonely child and a caring woman come together in this naturalistic drama from Belgium's Dardennes brothers.
Where • Broadway Centre Cinemas.
When • Opens Friday, April 13.
Rating • Not rated, but probably PG-13 for violence and language.
Running time • 87 minutes; in French with subtitles.