Having siblings can be both the most brilliant and frustrating experience of your life. Rarely, if ever, do you get one without the other. Ursula Meier’sSister will make your childhood friendship and squabbles with your siblings look positively mundane by comparison.
Simon (Kacey Mottet Klein) is a young boy living in a run-down apartmentblock in the valley beneath a luxury Alpine ski resort. With his parents seemingly absent from his life, Simon’s only companion is his sister Louise (Léa Seydoux). While Louise spends her days partying with questionable boyfriends, Simon is more proactive. Every morning he travels the ski lifts up the mountains and, while the rich skiers fine dine in the Alpine air, he seeks out the best, most expensive, ski equipment to sell to the highest bidder. Simon is lonely, isolated and desperate for his sister’s affection. She in turn is fickle towards their relationship; one minute warm and appreciative of him, the next distant and cutting.
When Simon is caught stealing from a hotel in the mountains by chef Mike (Martin Compston), they strike a friendly business arrangement that allows Simon to continue to pilfer anything he can get his hands on while Mike cherry picks the best equipment. The arrival of wealthy mother of two Kristin (Gillian Anderson) sparks something in Simon and he tries to strike a bond with her. With Louise’s moods increasingly dark, the young boy begins to force himself upon anyone who may offer an emotional shoulder to cry on.
Sister, like its setting and Louise’s relationship towards Simon, is often a cold affair. Meier shoots with a grey, dingy pallet, evoking the miserable existence Simon occupies. Often depressing, the film manages to avoid any real wrist-slitting moments by focusing on Simon’s positive outlook. He is a master criminal, able to effortlessly blend into the hustle and bustle of the ski slopes without ever really drawing attention to himself. But with Louise’s needs increasing, not to mention the cupboards being bare, Simon’s exploits get riskier.
Simon and Louise’s relationship is the centre of the film and, while it is often interesting and moving, especially in the second half, it pales compared to Simon’s other relationships. With Mike there is a brotherly bond, one minute at each other’s throats the next laughing and joking. Simon even has a group of loyal fans, the local kids of the area, who he sells his unwanted loot to. They look up to him, an entrepreneur who isn’t afraid to stick his neck out. The final act sees Simon recruit a sidekick who he names ‘Blue Gloves’, played with adorable innocence by Calvin Oberson, and the story manages to find some of its lighthearted nature again. Simon’s ability to naturally bond with others, making friends wherever he goes, is the high point of the film. But all the time, Simon and Louise’s relationship is becoming increasingly strained; in one heartbreaking scene Simon pays his sister for a hug, emptying his pockets of all he has for a semblance of affection.
Léa Seydoux, familiar to Ethan Hunt fans as Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol’s femme fatale, gives an appropriately chilly performance. Louise’s lifestyle and outlook etched in Seydoux’s deep-set eyes and glazed glances. Gillian Anderson and Martin Compston are rarely anything more than glorified cameos, only ever hinting at the other, more interesting directions the film could have gone in. Kacey Mottet Klein more than carries the film on his young shoulders however. His Artful Dodger-like abilities on the mountain often exposed as nothing more than a role he is occupying at the bottom of the valley. One minute the baby-faced criminal, the next a playful child jumping in the snow and feeding off any human contact he can get.
Too cold in places but with moments of emotional warmth Sister is as fun and tricky as any real sibling relationship.