8 April 2012 | ferguson-6
Parenting: No License Necessary
Greetings again from the darkness. When Guy (Jeremie Renier) states that he can't take care of his son Cyril (Thomas Douret) right now, I felt a rush of anger and disgust. Imagine if you were his 11 year old son hearing those words. Young kids should be able to count on their parents for emotional security above all else. There should be no fear of abandonment ... those are issues no child should be forced to deal with (barring a natural disaster).
The Belgium writer/director team of brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have a history of taking on parenthood and childhood in a head-on manner. Cyril is dumped in an orphanage by his dad, and is convinced that he is just misplaced, not abandoned. So being the fiercely determined kid he is, he re-traces his steps from coffee shops to bars to their old apartment. Cyril is convinced his dad never would have sold his treasured bicycle, no matter how desperate for money he was.
Whatever confusion and hostility that you think Cyril might experience, once he confronts his dad, the filmmakers display it in the rawest possible form. Cyril is a symbol of need, hiding behind a wall of rebellion. A chance encounter with Samantha (Cecile de France) leads to weekend visitations and the start of an awkward quasi-family life for both of them. Cyril tests Samantha and all other authority figures in every possible manner, often to the breaking point.
As a parent, it's easy to spot the vulnerabilities that a child faces before they have the maturity to handle it. We see how easily Cyril falls in with the wrong crowd and how quickly things can get really bad. Luckily for Cyril, Samantha doesn't abandon him. She answers "I don't know" to his question of why she let him stay with her. Although, the filmmakers never let us in on her deepest thoughts, we suspect she was once not all so different than Cyril, and someone stepped up for her.
This film won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes in 2011 and it's easy to see how. It shows how difficult and messy ordinary life can be, but how often things turn out OK, though rarely perfect. Film lovers will recognize Cecile de France from her many films, including the recent Hereafter and the excellent Mesrine.