Kid on a slip­pery slope

It’s slow, but Don­ald Clarke is im­pressed by a vivid per­for­mance from the young lead in this drama

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

UR­SULA MEIER, di­rec­tor of the de­fi­antly odd, mildly ab­sur­dist Home, moves on to more con­ven­tional nat­u­ral­is­tic ter­ri­tory with this slow-burn­ing, but ul­ti­mately rather touch­ing, drama set in a Swiss ski re­sort. Fea­tur­ing an un­can­nily grounded ju­ve­nile per­for­mance from Kacey Mot­tet Klein, the pic­ture bides its time qui­etly for much of its du­ra­tion. But a fi­nal, vaguely hope­ful im­age plays ef­fec­tively on the lay­ers of nu­ance that the film has sur­rep­ti­tiously been lay­ing down. Sis­ter stays with you.

Klein plays Si­mon, a young lad who, liv­ing with a slat­ternly elder sis­ter (Lea Sey­doux), but no ap­par­ent par­ents, steals skis, food and as­sorted Alpine equip­ment to keep the sib­lings in a state of tol­er­a­ble poverty. In the course of his ad­ven­tures, Si­mon rubs up against a Scot­tish chef (Martin Comp­son) and a mid­dle-class An­glo­phone tourist (Gillian An­der­son of all peo­ple). The chef of­fers him a de­gree of ag­gres­sive Glaswe­gian kind­ness. The tourist ap­pears warm at first, but steps back when the boy at­tempts to break the class bar­rier.

That’s re­ally all there is to the story. Si­mon’s sis­ter falls in with a few bad men and, feel­ing ex­cluded, the boy blurts out a fam­ily se­cret that doesn't change the per­sonal dy­nam­ics as much as it should. Si­mon’s wheel­ing and deal­ing lands him in trou­ble.

At times, that nar­ra­tive tor­por does weigh the pic­ture down. One longs for just a lit­tle more in­ci­dent. But Agnès Go­dard’s re­li­ably sub­tle pho­tog­ra­phy – ren­der­ing the re­sort grainy and grim – is di­vert­ing throughout and Klein’s per­for­mance is never less than com­pelling.

Sis­ter does take a few digs at mid­dle-Euro­pean bour­geois so­ci­ety, but it is most no­table for its vivid de­pic­tion of a time­less char­ac­ter: the canny, street­wise child who, for all his smarts, can’t quite con­ceal the dam­aged waif within.

Charles Dick­ens and Vic­tor Hugo would have un­der­stood Si­mon. We shall keep our eye on young M Klein.

Ski re­sort sib­lings: Lea Sey­doux, left, and Kacey Mot­tet Klein in Sis­ter

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