A sprightly and moving Dardennes-esque parable about economic and familial uncertainty on the Swiss Alps.
Swiss director Ursula Meier impressed with her surreal, colourfully metaphorical 2008 film, Home, about a nuclear family choosing to plant their roots on the hard shoulder of an under-construction motorway. She adopts a more formal, realist tact for her follow-up, Sister, which, despite its relative straightness, is probably is the more satisfying feature.
Easily dismissed as Dardennes-lite, Sister chronicles the questionable monkeyshines of 12-year-old Simon (Kacey Mottet Klein), a snakeoily wheeler-dealer who spends his days darting around a luxury ski resort and nabbing equipment and hardware that the well-heeled jetsetters have left lying around.
He then lugs it down the mountain and shills it at a discount rate to anyone who will buy it, siphoning profits through to his scatty older sister, Louise (Léa Seydoux), who doesn't appear to live her life like it's some kind of 24 hour slumber party. There's no mention of his parents, and when anyone asks, the ultra-industrious Simon is swift to spin them a yarn.
As the title suggests, this is foremost an investigation into family bonds, and Meier works up a very vivid, and it times unnervingly touchy-feely relationship between Simon and Louise. But, as Simon cheats his way up and down the mountain, the film appears to suggest something bigger than the precipitous family drama on show.
As with home Home, this film also poses big questions about civilisation and society, as Simon's craven desire for hard cash is eventually dashed by the fickleness of the marketplace. Meier also cleverly employs the mountain resort setting as way to physically displace the have from the have-nots, which in turn imbues the material with a penetrating universality.
Sister is a much more humane film than Home, and Meier proves more than adept at formulating Dardennes-esque, in-the-moment tension by simply observing a young, misguided soul go about their nefarious business and then daring us to guess exactly when and how he's going to come a-cropper. It's a beautiful and moving film, and Meier is (still) a director to watch very closely.
Ursula Meier made a big impact with her 2008 film, Home.
An expert piece of storytelling with a host of strong character turns and thematic depth to burn.
Dismiss this as Dardennes-lite at your peril.