Thursday, June 25, 2015

SISTER (2012)


This is my kind of movie. Sure, I've filled this blog with screeds about exploitation flicks, Bond movies, blockbusters and weird genre flicks, but THIS is what I'm about. I cannot really describe 'what' this is, but this movie landed in the same groove as (recently) Prince AvalancheKnife in the Water, and, uh, Dredd: A small group of characters in a limited setting who are forced by circumstance to interact with each other. Sister falls right in that wheelhouse. A Swiss docu-drama, Sister is all about its two characters and their very complex relationship. Warning: There will be spoilers, so if you don't want to know what's what, stop reading now. 

Sister is about a 12 year old boy, Simon, (Kacey Mottet Klein) who is trying to fend for himself and his wayward older sister, Louise, (Lea Seydoux). Set at the base of a mountain which plays host to a ski resort for wealthy foreigners, Simon and Louise live in a nearby apartment building where the poor residents scrape by and watch the tourists at play. The pair survive on the money Simon earns by selling winter gear and equipment he steals from unwary tourists. In contrast to Simon, his sister is lazy and childish. Unable to hold down a job or a relationship, Louise appears to be the main cause for Simon's unorthodox behaviour. 

As the story unfolds, we gradually learn the true nature of their relationship. She is actually his mother, and blames him for how her life turned out. This is the extent of the film's revelations. The film does not try to judge Simon and Louise, or offer pat motivations for the way they act. What makes their dynamic so interesting is that both characters are capable of both aiding and undermining the other.

When Louise finally begins to pull herself together and gets a job cleaning chalets, she is fired when Simon (enlisted to help) is caught stealing jewellery. What follows is my favourite scene in the movie, which encapsulates the pair's constantly shifting power dynamic. Enraged, Louise tries to give Simon a beating. However, despite their age gap, she is so short that this show of strength turns into a childish wrestling match with both participants scrabbling around in the dirt. It is hilarious and sad at the same time.

It is worth spoiling the ending, since it does not really give anything away, and is one of the main reasons why I keep revisiting the film. With the resort closing at the end of the season, and having lost both his revenue source and sister, Simon takes his last ride down the mountain in the gondola.  In the final shot, Simon passes Louise in the other gondola, heading toward the resort. Catching sight of each other, they rush to their respective windows as the two gondola pass. The film ends, leaving the viewer to ponder -- now that they are apart, are Louise and Simon finally closer than ever? Or is Simon giving his 'sister' and himself a second chance by leaving the mountain behind?

Or maybe I'm over-thinking it and he'll just wait at the bottom until she comes back down. I dunno. You figure it out.

Funny, sad and at times painfully real, Sister is a great movie. It's not for all tastes -- if you like stories with strong plots and tidy endings, you won't find them here. Sister is a portrait of two very lonely people who are simultaneously too immature and too worldly to survive without each other.

Go watch this movie! 

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