out of Five
Running time: 100
Writer/director Ursula Meier's follow up to 2008's Home is an emotionally engaging, beautifully shot and impressively directed Dardennes-esque French drama with a superb script and excellent performances from Kacey Mottet Klein and Léa Seydoux.
What's it all about?
Directed by Ursula Meier, Sister (or L’Enfant d’en Haut, original title fans) stars Kacey Mottet Klein as Simon, a wily 12 year old boy who lives with his older sister Louise (Léa Seydoux) in a rundown apartment at the foot of the Swiss Alps and supports his sibling by stealing skiing equipment and food from wealthy tourists frequenting the resorts up in the mountains. With Louise usually off with whoever her latest boyfriend is, Simon befriends two other adults: Scottish chef Mike (Martin Compston), who catches the boy in the act of stealing but agrees to help him sell the equipment; and kind-hearted holidaymaker Kristin (Gillian Anderson) and her two young boys.
Kacey Mottet Klein is terrific as Simon, his performance perfectly capturing the gap between childhood and adolescence; one moment he's heartbreakingly vulnerable and starved of affection, the next he's holding his own and smooth-talking various customers and tourists like an expert conman.
Seydoux is equally good as Louise, playing her as, essentially, an adult behaving like a child just as Simon is a child behaving like an adult, while there's strong support from both Compston and Anderson as well as a scene stealing, impossibly cute turn from Gabin Lefebvre as ‘Blue Hands’, a younger boy that Simon recruits to help steal things.
Meier's direction is extremely impressive, shooting in an observational yet subjective style that highlights Simon's point-of-view and recalls the work of the Dardenne brothers. The results of this are often quietly devastating, such as when Louise arrives home with a boyfriend and Simon sleepily reaches for cigarette filters to stuff into his ears, knowing from experience what's coming next.
In addition, the script is superb, packing a powerful emotional punch and making some thought-provoking observations about both class and the nature of parental responsibility. On top of that, the film is beautifully shot, with Agnes Godard's stunning cinematography making wonderful use of the various Alpine locations. There’s a great final shot, too.
Sister is a superbly made French drama that exerts a powerful emotional grip, thanks to a strong script and a terrific central performance from young Kacey Mottet Klein. Highly recommended.