100 minutes, France-Switzerland, 2012, Subtitled, Colour, D-Cinema

Franco-Swiss filmmaker Ursula Meier’s gritty new film is a stylistic volte-face from her magical debut Home, but displays a consistent focus on the conflicted workings of the family. In a story unfolding on and below the alpine ski slopes, that unit’s devolved to just 12-year-old Simon and his 20-something-year-old sister Louise, seemingly left to fend for themselves by absent parents. It’s junior who’s the breadwinner though, thanks to his lucrative scam reselling stolen ski equipment, a situation tolerated by his petulant sibling, who’s more interested in running after the wrong men. Kacey Mottet Klein’s tremendous performance as Simon, at once artful dodger and little boy lost, hints at the deeper emotional territory Meier aims to explore, especially when he encounters Gillian Anderson as a bourgeois English mum whose ideal family holidays he can only envy.

A bravura plot twist and intimate character portraiture combine en route to a magnificent final image, which turns the mountain landscape into affecting personal metaphor. (Notes by Trevor Johnston.)

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