Guest blog by Adrian Cross
If you’re ever asked about the realities of life for children in care and their carers I recommend you steer the curious to Belgian film The Kid with a Bike. Directed by the Dardennes brothers, Luc and Jean Pierre, this profoundly affecting tale of 11 year old Cyril won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes last year.
Cyril is running from his care home in a desperate attempt to contact the father who has abandoned him to social services. Sensing he’s unwanted, he fixates on finding the bicycle his father once bought. Luckily he bumps into a hairdresser, played with toughness and kindness by Cecile De France, star of Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter.
She recovers the bike, fosters Cyril and tracks down his father. However the encounter goes badly and complete rejection leads to a familiar pattern of events. Cyril is exploited by a teenage gang that peddles the illusion of paternal care, but, in reality, forces the boy to commit a crime that almost destroys him.
The Dardennes specialise in sympathetic, yet realistic, portraits of the marginalised. Here they expertly capture the repetitive, destructive behaviour of a damaged child and how well-meaning care struggles to fill the void inside him.
Thomas Doret gives such an authentic performance as the never-smiling Cyril you can’t help wonder if he’s experienced the same himself. If it all sounds like one long misery fest it isn’t. Cyril is a survivor. Each time he tumbles, Cyril picks himself up and jumps back on his bike.
The Kid with a Bike is now showing at cinemas.
Adrian Cross works with looked after children in south London.