28 September 2012

Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne's Le Gamin au vélo / The Kid with a Bike (2011)

Le Gamin au vélo (The Kid with a Bike) perhaps immediately calls to mind Vittorio De Sica's neo-realist Ladri di biciclette (Bicycle Thieves) (1948), although I'm reminded far more of Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist.
The film is set in a rather bleak Seraing in Belgium. Cyril Catoul (Thomas Doret) is an unruly eleven- or twelve-year-old in a children's home who is desperately seeking his father. By chance Samantha (Cécile de France), a youngish hairdresser (and the modern equivalent of Mr Brownlow) begins to foster him. But after learning that his father has rejected him, Cyril soon falls into the clutches of Wes (Egon di Mateo), the Fagin-type father figure who teaches him to steal. After a rather unconvincing botched robbery in which Cyril knocks a father and son out in unintended cartoon fashion (and with which Luc Dardenne finds some similarity to Raskolnikov's actions in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment), he finally recognises Samantha as a substitute mother and seems to be moving toward a kind of happiness with her.
Bearing in mind the subject matter, this could have turned dangerously sentimental but with the Dardenne brothers handling it that problem is avoided.

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