Friday, November 9, 2012

 

Sister (L'enfant d'en haut)

Sister Although the sharp contrast between rich and poor is quite evident and significant in many countries, especially in the US, it's less visible in wealthy European countries like Switzerland. That doesn't mean poverty doesn't exist in those places. Director Ursula Meier offers us a glimpse of the "under-privileged" in her captivating new film "Sister" (L'enfant d'en haut | Switzerland/France 2012 | in French | 97 min.). However, that's not the only focal point of this film. What's more remarkable is that while she uncovers that often ignored hush reality, she skillfully reveals the devastating inner world of a young boy who desperately longs for love, a family, and a future.

The film's protagonist, an innocent looking flimsy twelve-year-old Simon (Kacey Mottet Klein), is far from what he looks like. He is extremely resourceful and knows his way around. He lives in a housing project at the foot of a gorgeous snow-covered mountain. His only family member is his inattentive older sister Louise (Léa Seydoux). Louise not only provides little (if any at all) care for Simon, she also often disappears for days with money she skims from Simon. Simon is the one who brings bread to the table, literally.

Where does Simon get his money and bread? He steals. In his ski-gear, he rides a ski-lift daily up to a luxury ski resort on the top of the mountain. He doesn't ski there. Instead, he goes through backpacks of wealthy tourists and steals their equipment. Then he sells them for cash.

Despite his worry-free outlook and self-sufficient surviving skills, deep inside, Simon is an extremely vulnerable adolescent who needs love and a family, even an embrace.

Kacey Mottet Klein and Lea Seydoux in Sister

This is director Ursula Meier's sophomore feature after her excellent feature debut, "Home" (Switzerland/France/Belgium 2008). In "Home," she humorously tells a fascinating story about a happy-go-lucky family dealing with a highway that is built on their front yard. In "Sister," she candidly unfolds a heartbreaking tale about a broken family struggling up and down a ski-lift cable line. Switching away from her feature debut's comical style, she brilliantly gives a documentary feel to this film and sets the right observant and unsentimental tone. Kacey Mottet Klein shines in both films, and he is more impressive in "Sister" in which his natural performance effortlessly expresses Simon's emotions.

In the end, when the ski resort is closing down after a snow season, it leaves both Simon and the audience wondering: what now?

The film wins the Silver Bear Award at the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival. It is selected as the Swiss entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards.

"Sister" an Adopt Films release, opens on Friday, November 9, 2012 at Bay Area theaters.


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