Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s latest infuses its seemingly everyday drama with heart-catching emotion and moral substance. Eleven-year-old Cyril (Thomas Doret) is in a care home and absolutely intent on escaping to be reunited with his errant dad and the shiny new bike the latter bought for him. The boy is too trusting to think the worst of his father, so even when local hairdresser Samantha (Cécile de France, the Dardennes’ first-ever use of a ‘name’ actress) takes over parenting duties, Cyril proves stubbornly resistant to her attempts to provide a home for him. Instead he falls prey to smooth-talking neighbourhood drug dealer Wes (Egon Di Mateo).
Thrusting with the restless movement the Dardennes habitually bring to their films, their spin on Vittorio De Sica’s 1948 Italian Neo-Realist classic Bicycle Thieves is an urgent, brilliantly constructed story of the unexpected collision between passionate innocence and compassionate experience, performed with lived-in intensity by its wonderful cast. It’s a film as wise as it is compelling, and not to be missed. (Notes by Trevor Johnston.)