The boy steals the show in moving 'Sister'

Entertainment,Movies,Kelly Jane Torrance

There's a certain cinematic tradition involving the charming young thief, driven to crime by circumstances but eventually redeemed by them.

"Sister" doesn't quite fall into that category. Its central character, the 12-year-old Simon, isn't particularly charming. The actor who plays him, Kacey Mottet Klein, did portray a young Serge Gainsbourg in 2010's "Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life," after all. More than that, however, there's no salvation to be found here in hustling, though we understand Simon doesn't really have any other options.

"Sister" is a heartbreaking movie whose deft touches of humor only make the story more bittersweet. This quiet, moving, but big film is Switzerland's entry to the Oscar's Best Foreign Language Film category, and it stands an excellent chance of being nominated.

On screen
3.5 out of 4 stars
Stars: Kacey Mottet Klein, Lea Seydoux, Martin Compston
Director: Ursula Meier
Rated: Not rated
Running time: 97 minutes

Simon lives with his sister, Louise (Lea Seydoux), in a high-rise in the valley of a nearby ritzy resort. While the privileged float down the Swiss Alps, Simon pilfers their belongings; when they take a break, he even steals their skis. He sells them at cut-rate prices to the other valley dwellers.

Louise is older than Simon but can't be said to be more mature. As the film opens, she's quit -- or been fired from -- another crappy job. She doesn't contribute to the household. She's kept afloat by the kindness of Simon and the various men she disappears with. She should be taking care of Simon, but it seems to be the other way around. They give each other gifts -- all stolen, of course. It's the only sign Louise gives of caring for her younger brother.

They have an understanding, though. Louise is approached by her latest find. "He wants to go for a spin," she explains to Simon. "You said the guy was a jerk." Louise responds, "You know I hate Christmas," and drives off, leaving the boy alone for the holiday.

The first time we see Simon caught for a crime, the boy looks scared. But that expression soon changes to cunning. We don't really know this boy, we begin to understand. And we'll soon discover we never really had an inkling of his real circumstances, either.

There are rare moments of happiness in this film -- and they are quickly destroyed. Not by chance, though, but by the troubled characters themselves. Gillian Anderson makes a welcome appearance, briefly, as a British tourist who looks like the sort of mother Simon wishes he hadn't lost. But this movie belongs to the young Klein, a gawky, awkward child who has much to learn -- and even more to teach us.

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