Judge Alice Nelson is Verdict's official French-language Swiss film correspondent.
It's tough being your sister's keeper.
Facts of the Case
12-year-old Simon (Kacey Mottet Klein) and his older sister, Louise (Lea Seydoux, Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol), live on their own near a fancy Swiss ski resort where Simon steals from the wealthy vacationers in order to support himself and his flighty sister. As Louise's behavior becomes more unreliable, Simon, desperate to hold on to her, reveals a secret about her that threatens their already tense relationship.
The French language sure sounds good when hearing about love, whether it's the romantic kind, or the twisted and broken kind of familial love presented in the film Sister. This sad tale of the relationship between a brother and sister trying to survive within a few miles of a ritzy Swiss Ski resort could've devolved into a story of the one percent versus the 99 percent. Fortunately for us, writer Antoine Jaccoud and writer/director Ursula Meier chose to focus on a young boy and what he will do to get love from, and give love to, a sister who doesn't deserve or appreciate his devotion.
Ironically enough, 12-year-old Simon is the one keeping the fragile hold he and Louise have on their lives. He's the 'organizer,' as Louise calls him, who's resorted to stealing items from the ski resort that he in turn sells, then uses the money for rent and food. Simon takes advantage of his young age, blending into the crowd with that kid-like cloak of invisibility that renders him imperceptible to the adults, while other kids just assume he's one of them. This makes it easy for him to walk away with the valuable equipment carelessly left lying around.
Mottet-Klein is a powerhouse actor in a very small package; he has taken this film and carried it on his very capable shoulders. A majority of Sister is spent following Simon around, watching as he hustles his way with the confidence of someone much older. Seydoux is spectacular as the wayward Louise, who really has no direction in life at all, and instead of taking care of her younger brother, has developed an unnatural dependence on him while she makes one disastrous decision after another.
The script is well written, the performances are fantastic, and although it bogs down midway through, the writers throw in an unexpected twist that makes up for that short period where the mind wanders a bit. This revelation is done so smartly, without the overly dramatic flair that most films would've utilized, and it makes the behavior of brother and sister up to that point even more shocking. A nice little added bonus, for me anyway, is the appearance of one of my favorite actresses: Gillian Anderson (The X-Files). She plays a mother on vacation with her kids who befriends Simon, but soon finds out that her kindness was taken advantage of by a kid who is more comfortable lying and swindling than he is being honest with himself and others.
This is a bare bones DVD release presented in 1.33:1 standard definition, but still does a fine job of displaying the beautiful Swiss Alps. Sister is a French language film with easy to read subtitles accompanied by the beautiful spoken dialogue. There are no special features available in this release, which is a shame; I would've enjoyed hearing more background on this wonderful little film.
Even though it is of French origin, Sister is a relatable story regardless of the language in which it was written. The film shows no matter how tough the exterior, children want and need love.
Sisters and brothers, this film is Not Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Adopt Films
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