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'Sister' review: The sad tale of a tiny thief

EntertainmentMoviesAcademy AwardsDrama (genre)Gillian Anderson

*** (out of four)

I can’t say I expected Chicago-born Gillian Anderson (“The X-Files”) to appear in a small role in the Swiss drama “Sister.”
 
The film, recently named to the shortlist of possible nominees for the 2013 Oscars’ Best Foreign Language Film category, has another surprise up its sleeve, but it’s to director/co-writer Ursula Meier’s credit that “Sister” doesn’t hinge entirely on a twist. Rather, it’s a low-key, affecting story of dreams at odds with reality and crime sprung from necessity—with a final moment that perfectly encapsulates simultaneous hope and disappointment.
 
Twelve-year-old Simon (Kacey Mottet Klein) supports himself by stealing skis, helmets and anything else he can find at a Swiss resort, eating pocketed sandwiches and selling the stolen merchandise to kids and instructors.

“Nobody cares up there; they just buy another,” Simon says when giving his unreliable older sister Louise (Lea Seydoux of “Mission: Impossible--Ghost Protocol”) a stolen jacket. These two are on their own, but youth looks after experience as Louise frequently takes off with this guy or that guy, with no particular sense of when she’ll return.
 
The well-acted “Sister” does not always feel fully sketched. It’s unclear how the duo has lasted this long under the circumstances and what normally happens when the skiing season ends. Yet as Simon envies the love a vacationing mom (Anderson) gives her kids, and Simon later awkwardly tries to pay for the family’s lunch, the film makes you forget this kid’s criminal ways in the context of loneliness and desperation.
 
He may deserve the occasional trouble he gets into with guests or staff, but Simon’s pretty much an army of one. It’s no shock he fights the only way he knows how.

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mpais@tribune.com

 

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