This is a little gem of a film – directed by double Palme D’Or winning Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne it’s the story of a young boy, Cecil, played by Thomas Duret (who reminded me for some reason of the young Thomas Turgoose) who is dumped in a children’s home by a waste of space father who has better things to do than look after him. The Dardennes tell the story very sparsely – we don’t know where Cecil’s mother is, dead or alive, and we learn the bare minimum about the characters Cecil interacts with, no ponderous back storytelling here. But that’s the great strength of their direction, we see all we need to know to understand each characters actions if not their motivations.
When we meet Cyril, he’s on the hunt for his absent father and refusing to admit that he’s been dumped for good. In an emotional visit to his father’s now empty flat, Cecil can’t believe that at least his beloved bike isn’t there and refuses to leave, clinging on to a stranger as he’s forcibly removed who seems slightly less perturbed by this than most people would be. She is Samantha, a single hairdresser who for some reason is moved enough by the small boy clutching desperately to her to track down and buy back his lost bike and return it to him. A curious relationship builds between the two, with Samantha giving him a home at weekends.
Of course there isn’t quite a fairytale ending, and the film takes us through some emotional ground as Cyril tracks down his errant father and, when he doesn’t turn out to be the role model he’s in need of, substitutes him with a local drug dealer who naturally turns out to be an even worse choice. Samantha, played with just the right amount of heart and balls by Cecile de France) takes it all in her stride and it’s in this relationship that Cyril eventually finds what he’s looking for.
It’s a tale that is beautifully and simply told, there’s no more information here than we need and the punches, when they come, are surprisingly hard-hitting. But there’s a lot of warmth here too, and a large dollop of hope.