Cyril (Doret) is a 12-year-old boy who is searching for his lost bicycle — and his lost father. On his search, he crosses paths with Samantha (de France), a hairdresser who is drawn to help him despite the trouble that follows Cyril at every turn. When Cyril finally finds his bike, it leads him to his father (Renier), but the man reaffirms his desire to never see his son again. Cyril, feeling the full effects of this abandonment, is torn between falling in with a local gang or spending his weekends with Samantha, who's become a sort of surrogate mother to him.
The Dardenne brothers are proven masters of naturalistic filmmaking. This simple but potent tale of love and acceptance, with its measured pacing and intimate performances, equals their best work. Doret is a real find as the young boy, his wide-open face betraying all the pain and need under the bravura exterior. The bike becomes a symbol of Cyril’s freedom, but also a painful reminder of everything he has lost. It’s impossible not to be reminded of De Sica’s “Bicycle Thieves,” but the comparison is apt. This lean, slow-burn thriller is a modern masterpiece.