Cyril Catoul (played by Thomas Doret) is only 11 years old – he has been placed in the care of a state run children’s home. Although his father is the one that left him there, Cyril is convinced his father is about to return to collect him and that he has only been delayed due to unforseen circumstances. Cyril is intent on rejoining his father and will stop at nothing to do this. A hairdresser, Samantha (by Cecile de France) notices Cyril when she is visiting the home one day and although he behaves obnoxiously towards her, something in her makes her want to take him under her wing. She arranges to become Cyril’s guardian for regular visits and outings. Her first act to befriend him is to track down his much-loved bike (which his father sold and never intended to return to him) – she returns this to Cyril and starts to get to know the stubborn and impulsive boy, whose every act seems rebellious and intent on self-destruction. Cyril remains aloof from Samantha and while on a visit to her home one weekend he gets involved with a charismatic but manipulative local young criminal, Wes (by Egon Di Mateo). This can only lead to worse things for the naive Cyril …
Will he ever find his father? … Will Samantha’s kindness ever be recognised? … Can Cyril be saved from a life of sure delinquency? ….
This movie is very well made – it is a compelling emotional drama. A slow burn in many respects, the issues and emotions involved are palpable and the directors create every gesture and every scene with meaning and intent. At first, young Cyril presents as such a badly behaved boy, in frustration I just wanted to slap him. Add to this my utter astonishment at the seemingly unquestioning faith Samantha has in her ability to connect with Cyril and her belief that he will eventually trust her, that in its early stages the movie ran the risk of being lost on me for good. However, this does not last long – here we have a very raw, human film and the skill of the directors to draw us into Cyril’s highly emotional and deeply painful world so that we actually empathise with him is remarkable. Thomas Doret is excellent – his depiction of the desperate, determined and sheer bloody-minded Cyril is fantastic. Cecile de France is strong as the tenacious Samantha, but I was left wondering as to her motivation in doing this for Cyril. The role played by Jeremie Renier as Cyril’s father, Guy, would have been a challenge, but one to be grabbed. His character is not in the film much, but his role is very significant and well done. The movie was awarded the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011 and was nominated for several other awards including a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language film in 2011. A very good movie. Well done.
Made in 2011. Directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne.