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Review: Sister

By PETER KEOUGH  |  October 18, 2012
2.5 2.5 Stars

Increasingly popular among American independent filmmakers, the school of miserabilism — starkly dramatizing the poor, wretched, and unjustly deprived — has thrived in Europe probably since the heyday of Neorealism. Practitioners like the Dardenne brothers have achieved wrenching portraits of humanity in extremis. But some, like Swiss director Ursula Meier in this tale of siblings surviving on the fringes of a chi-chi ski resort, can be formulaic. The performances — by Kacey Mottet Klein as the 12-year-old who holds the tiny ménage together with petty theft and careful planning, and by Léa Seydoux as the sister whose behavior threatens chaos — do justice to their characters' plight. And shot by Agnès Godard, the landscapes, close-ups, and tiny figures lost in landscapes look forlorn and beautiful. But it all seems designed to indulge a pitying fascination with contrived wretchedness. Despite the twist at the end, this seems as rote as the circling ski lifts that are Meier's recurring metaphor.

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