At a time when cinema, even in France, is all too often a prisoner of social or psychological realism, Jacques Doillon’s films define their own narrative conventions and semitheatrical space. In The Little Criminal a delinquent kid runs away from his hometown to find a sister he never knew. Even though his journey takes him on the road, we are acutely aware of the limitations of space that are also limitations on the protagonist’s freedom; the film unavoidably points toward a return of the kid to the police station, the end of the game. Most of the time the three main characters are confined in the car of the young cop the boy has kidnapped at gunpoint to take him to Montpellier in search of his sister. The cop alternately plays detested authority figure, substitute father, gullible adult, young man secretly attracted to a blooming female, and a few other roles. American audiences might cringe at some of the plot devices: Why did the cop leave his gun unwatched? Why did he trust the kid? Yet the poignancy of the cop’s naivete, the dialectic of misunderstanding and recognition between two people from the same background, is precisely what gives the film its fragile grace.