'Bike' is a minor film that is nonetheless a powerful story of the consequences of parental abandonment.
The Belgian directing team of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne is renowned for making spare and exploratory movies that avoid easy psychological explanations, not to mention a musical soundtrack. Everything is au naturel with the brothers Dardenne – or at least that's the illusion. Artlessness is their artistry.
"The Kid With a Bike," about an enraged 11-year-old boy abandoned by his father, is somewhat more theatrical than their other films. For one thing, it actually features snatches of a score (albeit Beethoven's "Emperor" concerto). For another, the camerawork, instead of their usual bobbly, hand-held approach, is relatively rock solid. This is fine with me. I've never understood why filmmakers think a bobbly camera is more "realistic" than a stationary one.
At the start of the film, Cyril (Thomas Doret), who has been placed temporarily in a boys' home, furiously flees its confines to track down his errant father (Jérémie Renier). He discovers that his father has sold Cyril's bike and left with no forwarding address. This bicycle is perhaps the most metaphorical two-wheeler since the stolen bike in "Bicycle Thieves." It represents for Cyril much more than a means of transportation: It's an escape hatch, a chariot, a tangible proof of his father's love (or callousness).
Cyril's savior, of a sort, comes in the form of a local hairdresser in the blue-collar Belgian town of Seraing. As the Dardennes have remarked in interviews, Samantha (Cécile de France) is a kind of fairy godmother. Cyril randomly latches onto her, but there's a fated quality to their matchup. She helps track down his bike and returns it to the boys' home, and Cyril, overcoming his pent-up rage at his father's indifference, asks if she will be his weekend guardian.