“L’enfant d’en haut” (English title: “Sister”), set to hit U.S. theaters on Oct. 12, is the second feature film from writer/director Ursula Meier, whose first film Home was fairly well received. This second effort, which stars Kasey Mottey Klein (the main child in Home) is sadly not an improvement. It has a very interesting premise but struggles to present it in its best light.
Klein is “Simon”, a 12-year-old boy who lives with his sister “Louise” (Seydoux) in a small apartment inside of a tall building in a city at the base of a mountain. Atop the mountain is an expensive ski resort where tourists spend freely and there are plenty of opportunities for Simon to pilfer. He runs his own cottage industry stealing goggles, sunglasses, gloves, and especially skis from the resort’s patrons. His mindset is that they have so much, they’ll just run out and buy replacement equipment and lose no sleep over what he has taken. He will sell his stolen goods and uses the money to help keep himself and Louise in food and toilet paper. It is a good thing that he is able to generate this income as Louise struggles to remain employed, among her other problems.
The brother and sister are alone as their parents died in an accident some time ago and one is left to wonder through most of the film why Louise chose to to stay with Simon since she appears to consider him a burden. Simon, however, is obsessively devoted to his sister.
Simon meets an English man who is working in a restaurant at the resort and who also appears to make money by taking from others. “Mike” (Compston) offers to buy the skis that Simon can deliver and for a time it looks like they will work well together, but Simon soon realizes he can’t depend on Mike.
Meier’s premise about a boy who is really the adult and an adult sister who is more or less the child is interesting, but there are inconsistencies that just don’t make sense. If Simon is the organized, self-sufficient adult, why is he so dependent upon Louise? He makes decisions that make no sense, refusing to allow one of his neighbor children to come stealing with him at one point and then allowing him to do so later on. The same reasons for saying no were still in play, but he said yes.
More curious is why Simon pretends to be a patron of the resort when he joins “Kristin Johnson”, a wealthy tourist who is skiing with her sons when she and Simon first encounter one another. He tells her a story that his wealthy parents are busy running a big hotel they own and tries to buy the meal she and her kids are eating. They will run into each other later on in a much different situation and why this earlier encounter was staged seems to have been only to serve to make their later meeting more difficult.
There are images that Meier uses of crossing a highway and speeding trains passing in the background that are clearly intended to have some meaning, but whatever the intent was lost on me. In the end, I enjoyed the performance of Klein as “Simon”, but overall, the film was disappointing.