L’enfant d’en haut | Sister
DIRECTOR: Ursula Meier | WRITERS: Antoine Jaccoud, Ursula Meier, Gilles Taurand | CAST: Kacey Mottet Klein, Léa Seydoux, Martin Compston, Gillian Anderson, Yann Trégouët | Switzerland
Ursula Meier’s bleak but beautifully filmed L’enfant d’en haut focuses on Simon (Kacey Mottet Klein), a parentless 12 year old boy who lives with his aimless older sister Louise (Léa Seydoux) in a grim industrial mountain town in Switzerland. While she takes a succession of menial service jobs — and casual boyfriends with cars — he spends his days at the exclusive ski resort that towers over the town where he steals expensive ski equipment and clothing from the wealthy vacationers. Although Simon is resourceful and clever and fends for himself, he’s still just a boy, and an achingly lonely one at that. Meier and her cinematographer Agnès Godard emphasize the two realms Simon inhabits: brilliant blue sky and blindingly white slopes above and the gray murk of the town below, perpetually in the resort’s shadow. Léa Seydoux gives a fine performance as the sister, aware that she’s continually screwing her life up but helpless to turn herself around, but the movie is really Kacey Mottet Klein’s. Klein is exceptional at showing that underneath the cynical, hard-edged exterior there’s a needy boy being forced to grow up much too fast. What plot there is seems overly familiar and the contrasts between rich and poor, haves and have-nots may be highlighted a bit too obviously, but Meier is mostly content with letting us observe these characters without comment, and the ending of the movie is quietly heartbreaking. I do want to take issue with the English-language title since it doesn’t reflect the original title at all nor does it accurately or even ironically say anything about the movie. It would probably be more accurate if more pointedly stupid to call it Ski Holiday if the title has to be Englished at all.