Cyril (Doret) is an angry tornado of a boy who lives in a care home with no idea where his father has moved. In a fit of desperation, he goes in search of his beloved bike, which is found by a neighbour, Samantha (De France). Her kindness strikes a chord with Cyril, and he starts visiting her for weekends.
She also helps him find his father (Renier), who can't cope with the responsibilities of fatherhood. But Cyril then turns to a local thug (Di Mateo), who teaches him how to rob a local businessman.
As usual, the Dardennes focus tightly on their central character, encouraging unusually natural acting while delivering a reverse riff on the classic The Bicycle Thief. They also once again discover an amazing raw talent in Doret, who delivers a complex, full-bodied performance as the almost feral Cyril. Like Samantha, we never know what he'll do next. And the filmmakers peel away his disinterested bravado to reveal a troubled, sad life that's clearly heading for a nasty end unless someone can help him make better decisions.
The film's focus is so strong that the rest of the cast almost doesn't register, which echoes the way Cyril virtually ignores them. De France brings layers of tough honesty to Samantha, who continually confounds Cyril with her compassion. Renier is terrific in a small role as his terrified young dad, echoing his 2005 role in the Dardennes' The Child. And Di Mateo gives his character a magnetic presence that makes him hugely attractive even though we know he's up to no good.
Nothing is easy in this story, and the Dardennes head into some very dark places. The concentrated intimacy keeps us griped while also making this realistic, urgent film sometimes hard to watch. But we continue to root for Cyril, even when we start to feel the grinding gears of the plot. This makes the film feel a bit too pointed, but it also makes what happens both heart-stopping and thoroughly engaging.
Run time: 87 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 18th May 2011
Box Office USA: $1.4M
Distributed by: IFC Films
Production compaines: Les Films Du Fleuve, Archipel 35, Lucky Red, France 2 Cinéma, Radio Télévision Belge Francophone (RTBF), Belgacom TV, Centre National de la Cinématographie, Eurimages, Canal+, CinéCinéma, France Télévision, Région Wallone, Le Tax Shelter du Gouvernement Fédéral de Belgique, Taxshelter. be, Inver Invest, Casa Kafka Pictures, Dexia, Making Of, Soficinéma 7, Programme MEDIA de la Communauté Européenne, Wild Bunch
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Fresh: 114 Rotten: 4
IMDB: 7.3 / 10
Starring: Jérémie Renier as Guy, Cécile De France as Samantha, Thomas Doret as Cyril, Fabrizio Rongione as Le libraire, Olivier Gourmet as Patron du bar, Egon Di Mateo as Wes, Batiste Sornin as Educateur 1, Samuel De Rijk as Educateur 2