Sister (L’enfant d’en haut)

He ain’t heavy… – ★★★★

A tale of a young boy stealing from the rich and privileged at a ski resort to support himself and his sister has much more to offer than the usual art house film. 

Kacey Mottet Klein plays Simon a modern day Oliver who will certainly pick a pocket or two to get along. Skis are the currency and Simon can make good money re-selling them second hand in town. He lives with his sister Louise (Léa Seydoux) in a dingy tower block below the Alps. Simon is the chief bread stealer with his sister drifting through life unable to find any stability. With both being independent they must try and learn how to cope within the confines of their relationship.

The film follows Simon as he nonchalantly goes about the Swiss ski resort stealing anything he puts his hands to and with a loyal troop of customers waiting for him below to snap up his spoils he manages to earn a crust. Louise has just lost her job and keeps abandoning her younger brother for days on end for different men occasionally stopping by to borrow money from Simon. He protests but is so desperate for some affection he will do anything to get her attention. One of the most troubling scenes is when Simon pays to sleep (not that kind of sleep, get your mind out of the gutter), with her just so he doesn’t have to be alone. The film could have taken a turn for the incestuous but thankfully doesn’t.

| o | – Try a little tenderness

Along his travels Simon tries to look for family figures which he needs desperately. Striking up a business with Mike (Martin Compston) who’ll take the stolen skis back to England gives him an older brother to enjoy and Kristen (Gillian Anderson) fulfils the role of mother. All of these ultimately end in rejection as the season winds down and this is when Simon must try to cling on to his sister.

The performances are outstanding, Klein as Simon is brilliant, aptly showing the defiant grifter-like character needed to survive on your own. Seydoux manages to enrage you for her treatment of her brother but somehow evokes huge sympathy leaving you not quite sure where you stand. The biggest selling point is the ending. There is always the danger in foreign art house films to end a film bluntly making you imagine they want you to think about the film, when in reality they didn’t know how to end it so just went to black. Sister could have fallen foul of this gimmick and even looks to be heading that way until the last moment, but instead chooses to give us a resolute ending.

Ursula Meier has done a great job in directing, using both the beauty of the Alps and the reality of life below to tell her story of familial woe.

Sister is Switzerland’s official Oscar nomination for foreign language film so fingers crossed it’s picked. Who knows it may even beat Haneke’s Amour.

Switzerland  /  Directed By: Ursula Meier  /  Written By: Antoine Jaccoud, Ursula Meier, Gilles Taurand  /  Starring: Kacey Mottet Klein, Léa Seydoux, Martin Compston, Gillian Anderson  /  97min  /   Drama   /  Release: 26 October 2012 (Irl/UK)