Tuesday 23 October 2012

London Film Festival Round-Up - Part 4

Sister is set in a Swiss skiing resort where the 12 year old Simon (Kacey Mottet Klein) supports both himself and his sister Louise (Léa Seydoux of MI4 and Midnight in Paris) through his organised and well orchestrated entrepreneurial stealing and selling of skiing equipment.  Simon takes on the role of provider and parent to the older Louise with her living the life of a irresponsible, erratic older sibling. Without obvious parents, the film follows Simon as he engages in his underground business. His youth, is easy to forget in his practical, well structured and calculated dealings with people much older than himself. He turns his disadvantages to his advantage when caught by seasonal worker chief Mike (Martin Compston, The Disappearance of Alice Creed) but comes through poignantly in his fabricated story to Kristen (Gillian Andersen) who appears like an idealised mother figure for Simon in the film. 

Director and co-writer Ursula Meier plays the film close to her chest and in going into so much detail in how Simon conducts himself, sets the film up for it's emotional eruption within this more dysfunctional of family units. Kacey Mottet Klein is a precocious talent with the ability to depict both steely intelligence and a child's physical and emotional vulnerabilities. Léa Seydoux employs a near permanent sulky teenage expression for the majority of the film but this works well off Klein's nuanced performance. Themes of wealth versus poverty; circumstances and family are all explored in Meier's film. As has been a critique of many of the films in the London Film Festival, Sister at a reasonable 1 hour 40 minutes does still  feel a little overly long though the emotional impact of the film is felt even if it is not completely surprising.

Rating: 3/5

Stephen Dorff has been having a quiet career renaissance and an extremely busy 2012 acting wise. Starring in and having been a producer for Zaytoun, he plays Yonim an Israeli Air Force pilot, who crash lands in a Palestinian refugee camp in war torn Lebanon in 1982. Captured by local Palestinian militia, Yoni is handcuffed and guarded by   the group which includes young boys being trained to help liberate Palestine from Israel. When imprisoned, Yoni comes in contact with Fahed (Abdallah El Akal) a young teen Palestinian boy who has recently witnessed his father being killed by an Israeli air strike and has become more militant as a result of the experience. Both Yoni and Fahed are hostile to each other but come to work together to get back to what they both consider their homeland. Fahed is determined to plant his father's olive tree in their home village and sees Yoni as a means to fulfil his father's wish.

Director Eran Riklis gives weight to both sides of the political and national divide throughout the film and Zaytoun does a subtle job at showing how a carefree soccer mad boy like Fahed can become militant in the political hotbed of discontent created in the Palestinian refugee camps.  With good period detail the film's first act starts off well with both Fahed and Yoni being shown to be strong characters completely entrenched in their national viewpoints. The lines between them begin to blur as both man and boy begin to work together to cross border lines where their nationality changes from being a saving grace to a dangerous hinderance. 

The film morphs into an odd-couple-on-the-run scenario and by the third act the script has run out of momentum. Both Dorff and El Akal are solid in their parts but the screenplay gives the pair less and less to do by the end of the film and a film that started out with great potential, begins to rely on a hackneyed sentimentality. There is a nice father/son interplay between the pair but the film begins to feel overly long and sentimental by the time it's full one hour and 47 minutes has been played out. There is a kernel of a good film in Zaytoun but ultimately it brings little new to the debate on war in the Middle East and of how human beings share more common ground than they first imagine.

Rating: 2/5

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