Synopsis: L’enfant d’en haut is a drama set at a Swiss ski resort and centered on a boy who supports his sister by stealing from wealthy guests.
Release Date: November 17, 2012 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Drama, Foreign
Sister (L’enfant d’en haut) is a Swiss film by French director Ursula Meier (Home), a sad tale of a pair of siblings trying to make their way in the world without the benefit of having parents in their lives. Simon (Kacey Mottet Klein, who was also in Meier’s Home) is a little boy who spends his days lurking around an upscale ski resort stealing equipment and clothing from the wealthy patrons. He sells his take and uses the money to support himself and his older sister, Louise (Lea Seydoux from Inglourious Basterds), a socially maladjusted girl who can keep neither a job nor a friend. Simon’s misadventures on the slopes lead him to meet many different people, including a food service worker named Mike (Sweet Sixteen‘s Martin Compston), who teams up and goes into business with the youngster, and a young mother named Kristin (Gillian Anderson from “The X-Files”), with whom he feels a surrogate connection. His success in his illegal enterprises does not turn into success with his sister, as the pair struggles in vain to keep an earth shattering secret that both are just bursting to let out.
L’enfant d’en haut is a simple little film with very complex undertones. The story is pretty straightforward, but the emotional impact, honesty and trust issues, and thin line between right and wrong that the film presents is ever-present. The script, written by Meier along with Antoine Jaccoud and Gilles Taurand (both of whom co-wrote Home with her), is both subtle and alarming. The characters are vivid and believable; Louise is the big sister that viewers just love to hate, while Simon makes the most unlikely of heroes. The film is built on an underlying bed of sadness, with the tension between Simon and Louise at the forefront. Simon feels more at home breaking the law on the slopes than he does when he’s actually at home with Louise – he’s a boy that has been forced to grow up too quickly because his sister refuses to grow up at all.
In addition to the vicarious and visceral force that the film presents, Sister is a real treat for the eyes. Shot on location all around Valais, Switzerland, the film captures both affluence and poverty in striking detail. The settings take the viewer all the way from the rich and wealthy ski slopes that Simon stalks looking for loot to the run down, dilapidated apartment building in which he and Louise live. The sterile, whitewashed restaurant where Mike works is just around the corner from Kristin’s warm, homely winter house. Sister takes the juxtaposition between rich and poor and places it squarely in the scenic, picturesque mountains of Switzerland with working stiffs and wealthy vacationers all around. In the end, Sister is about differences; between classes, between people, and between siblings.
The cast in Sister (L’enfant d’en haut) is the most impressive element of the film. Although the supporting cast is top notch, it is Kacey Mottet Klein who really sells the film. His portrayal of the little thief Simon is both sweet and sad; he stoops to the level of crime and thievery to support his older, less capable sister, and the audience both admires his resourcefulness while feeling sympathy for his situation. Klein captures these emotions well for an actor of any age, much less a boy of fourteen. The chemistry between Klein and Lea Seydoux is impeccable, their behavior seeming familiar to anyone who has a sibling, loving and affectionate one minute and bitterly hateful the next. The ensemble in Sister is not very elaborate, consisting of just the two leads and a handful of supporting roles, and while Klein and Seydoux do the heavy lifting, Gillian Anderson and the rest of the company weave in and out to complete the picture, making L’enfant d’en haut a very well acted film.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Ursula Meier
- Screenwriter(s): Antoine Jaccoud, Ursula Meier
- Cast: Kacey Mottet Klein (Simon), Lea Seydoux (Louise), Martin Compston (Mike), Gillian Anderson (Kristin Jansen)
- Cinematographer: Agnes Godard
- Music Score: John Parish