Lesser, but still very fine, from the brothers Dardenne (Jean-Pierre & Luc), tackling a modern ‘wild child’ story both tough & tender. Thomas Doret, in his first film, is ‘the kid’ in question, a virtual orphan, abandoned by a single dad who’d rather move on. Unwilling to accept the situation, the boy’s a stubborn terror of unfed sensitivities, striking out at anyone trying to help; including Cécile De France, a woman met by happenstance at a medical clinic. They bond, to wary effect, when she gets his stolen bike back to him and then takes him on as a wknd foster guardian. But he’s still a handful, wrecking her current romance and finding the worst possible surrogate father-figure to impress with misplaced loyalty. Short & episodic, the film has the quality of an twice-told tale, and if some limitations in the Dardenne style of filmmaking show (a robbery that’s a narrative tipping-point fails to convince), their refusal to explain away the foster mother’s tenacious commitment in either psychological terms or thru backstory offer something more, a sense of mystery and the magical benevolence of a fable.
ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: Beginnings: The Dardennes forge past their strict Neo-Realist ways to work with well-known actors. Endings: Apparently, the last of their films shot on 35mm.
DOUBLE-BILL: Sounds goofy, but the kid that THE KID most calls to mind is . . . PINOCCHIO/’40! Though it does make Ms. France a combination of the Blue Fairy, Geppetto and Jiminy Cricket.