The film tells the story of Cyril (Thomas Doret), a 12-year-old who lives in a children’s home. He leaves the school grounds one day relentlessly trying to find his father. But he doesn’t, for his father is not in his apartment and neither is his red bike. Workers from the children’s home trace Cyril’s steps and finally run into him. Cyril runs away, goes into a doctor’s office and, realising he has nowhere else to go from there, puts his arms around Samantha (Cécile de France), a young woman waiting with the rest of the patients. With his arms tightly around her, she cannot quite understand what is going on. It is as if the mere touch, that single moment of contact, has produced within her feelings of love and care for the kid she just met. Cyril is taken away but the nexus lingers within her.
Belgian directors and brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, have been making films together since the 1970s. Their first feature was La promesse in 1996 and in 1999 they won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for their film Rosetta. In 2005 they were awarded the Palme d’Or a second time for L’Enfant. Their cinema has never been concerned with one subject in particular; their scope embraces human behaviour at its most fundamental state. Their characters struggle but never cease to live in deep awareness of what it is important to them. This sometimes makes for selfish characters, like Cyril’s father, but it also permeates the story with a sense of perpetual free will. It makes them unique, to the degree that they are not tied to a plot, however bound by cause and effect. They live truthfully in an alternate reality that renders them both weak and powerful; the eternal dichotomy of human existence.
Everything flows endlessly within the film much like life itself…
We as spectators come into play through a tiny window that has been left open for us, or perhaps that we have open ourselves through our inquisitive nature. In a purely visual level, we float near the characters, ever witnessing their life experience and deciding what we want to keep for ourselves. All of these make for a cinema that is carefully crafted in order to help us discern what is really going on inside characters like Cyril who, beyond being scared and angry, is just looking for love. As Cécile de France has said about the Dardenne brothers, “The power of simplicity is what best defines their work”. Nothing is given to the audience as a certainty. There are no moral judgements and nothing is directly inferred. Everything flows endlessly within the film much like life itself, thus nothing is contrived. Therein lies the success of such a simple story showing something beyond the mundane.
Image courtesy of Les Films du Fleuve