Sister | Movie review
Director Ursula Meier emulates the Dardenne brothers.
As plainly as any upstairs-downstairs chamber drama, Sister measures status in altitude. Here it’s a chairlift, not a winding staircase, that connects the haves with the have-nots. Among the latter group is Simon (Kacey Mottet Klein), a latchkey youth of the Antoine Doinel variety. Giving new meaning to the expression social climbing, this preteen hustler scales the slopes of a Swiss ski resort. When he returns to his housing-project home down the mountain, it’s usually with a hockable haul of pilfered belongings. No casual thief, Simon steals out of necessity; he seems to have no parents, just an irresponsible older sister (French starlet Léa Seydoux) he regularly supports. But can his Robin Hood routine last forever? What happens when a British seasonal worker (Martin Compston) gets wise to the racket?
Watching Sister, it’s hard not to think of the Dardenne brothers, from whom the movie borrows its visual style, its pacing, even its moral universe. (Klein bears a passing resemblance to Thomas Doret, the similarly blond urchin of the Dardennes’ The Kid with a Bike.) For fans of Ursula Meier’s last movie, the strikingly offbeat domestic drama Home, this act of auteur-on-auteur emulation may feel like a comedown. Yet it’s still stirring work—conventional but heartbreaking, with a genuinely surprising plot twist that complicates its portrait of family on the fringe. And as in Home, a mode of transportation becomes symbolically crucial, with Meier treating that ski lift as both a nexus between social strata and—in a blissful final beat—an airborne route to reconciliation.