“What are you doing stealing? You are just a kid!”
“Get ready for a unique movie experience.” That is the exact sentence I used for my review of Ursula Meier’s 2008 film Home. Her latest movie L’enfant d’en haut (Sister) deserves an equally reassuring opening, with one important annexation – a powerful Coming-of-Age narrative guaranteed to evoke powerful emotions while providing a moral dilemma to deal with.
The movie throws us right into the action as we witness the confident manner in which 12-year-old Simon steals skiis, gloves and empties pockets in changing rooms at a Swiss mountain resort. Whether impressed with his skills or repelled by his actions, you will not be able to help it when the tension creeps in. Why is he stealing? Will he be caught? Early in the film we have an answer: he steals because he needs money – money to survive and support his care less older sister with whom he shares an apartment down in the valley.
Simon spends a lot of time by himself. On the mountain he “works” alone and when he’s at home his sister seems to always be away with someone, somewhere. Occasionally she comes home, broken and in need of money. Because of the grown-up responsibility associated with the role of provider for their family, Simon has no time for kids his own age.
Agnes Godard‘s skillful lighting and color selection, combined with the ample usage of close-up shots, emphasizes the lonely existence of the film’s protagonists (Simon’s sister, as it turns out, is no less lonely than he is). In addition to the review of Sister you can read the reviews for the two movies for whom the cinematographer was Agnes Godard: namely Home (2008) and Jacquot de Nantes (1991).
Kacey Mottet Klein as Simon in Ursula Meier’s Sister
Actor Kacey Mottet Klein starred in Ursula Meier’s debut feature film Home when he was just nine-years-old (it was his cinematic debut as well). In that film, while he was not the central character, his performance won him the Swiss Film Award for Best Emerging Actor. In contrast, in Sister he is on screen in almost all the scenes (typical for the classic Coming-of-Age narrative) and undeniably the film owes a lot of its appeal to his natural performance. So immersed in the role was Kacey that he was not just acting — he was Simon! Such a symbioses between an actor’s personality and his character speaks volumes about his talent and of competent directing.
Finally, I should mention the story itself. It is unique and yet universal. It could have happened anywhere to anyone. It addresses issues such as morality, class difference, a struggle for survival, love and attention. The emotionally charged complex narrative offers surprising twists and reminds us as to why, after reading reviews, previews …etc., one is still never really prepared for the experience and the intense feelings that a filmmaker can evoke by telling a story.
Sister – Official U.S. Trailer
Interview with Director Ursula Meier