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Review: Sister (L’enfant d’en haut) – Swiss Miss remiss

Posted by on December 7, 2012 – 12:03 am

Sister (L'enfant d'en haut)Sister - L
One wouldn’t expect that a low-budget dramatic Swiss (French Language) film about a young boy taking on the adult role of caring for himself and his much older sibling would contain as much subtle mystery, suspense and heartbreak as Sister does; but it’s those ingredients, plus an incredible performance by the young actor Kacey Mottet Klein, that make this movie worth seeking out.

Simon is 12 years old and lives with his older sister Louise (Lea Seydoux) in a little roadside village near a Swiss ski resort. Louise doesn’t do much accept run with the boys and spend the small bit of money that her little brother makes by stealing expensive ski equipment from the uppity tourists and then selling it to the locals.

The young boy has obviously been surviving like this for a long time and is very professional and good at what he does. He takes on the adult role in his relationship with his sister, including providing food, clothing and paying the rent. I’m guessing that Louise is probably 15 years older than him, but obviously has issues with being a responsible grown-up and their parents allegedly died in car crash years earlier.

Sister has some beautiful mountain scenery and also provides a look at the seedier side of upper-class ski resorts, reminding us that there is always someone who has to do the dirty work; and the wonderful cinematography by Agnes Godard symbolically separates the top-of-the-mountain’s “wealthy” with the bottom-of-the-mountain’s “poor.”

Sister (L'enfant d'en haut)Sister - L
The story follows the young boy and his relationship with his self-destructive sister throughout a single ski season and as the snow begins to melt away, so do the layers of cold-hearted deception, showing Louise to be ever more ruthless and ungrateful towards Simon’s efforts to keep them alive; and the boy’s motivations for stealing are revealed to be noble and his character eventually elicits gut-wrenching sympathy.

The camera is nearly always on Klein and his performance blows most of the adult actors in this film off the screen. Speaking of the other actors, if you have been wondering what Agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) from the X-Files has been up to lately, she makes a cameo appearance in this movie as an upper-class ski-mom – although it took me a while to recognize her (and at first I thought she was Sharon Stone.)

If you have a very sharp eye, you might also recognize the French actress Lea Seydoux from American movies like Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Inglourious Basterds. Sister was written & directed by French/Swiss filmmaker Ursula Meier and is the Swiss candidate for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award.

Sister is far from being a feel-good film, and it’s one you don’t want to say too much about for fear of ruining its allure, but if you dig small, low-budget, independent foreign-film fare, then this is one you will certainly need to see.  Grade: 7/10