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Originally published Thursday, August 9, 2012 at 3:02 PM

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'On the Sly': Child needs a little more quiet time in compelling tale

A movie review of "On the Sly," Olivier Ringer's ambitious if somewhat compromised family film about a 6-year-old girl (Wynona Ringer, the director's daughter) who hides in the woods for weeks from her neglectful parents.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 2.5 stars

'On The Sly,' with Wynona Ringer, Olivier Ringer, Macha Ringer. Directed by Olivier Ringer, from a screenplay by Olivier and Yves Ringer. 77 minutes. Not rated; for general audiences. In French, with English subtitles. Northwest Film Forum, through Thursday.

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A little silence would be golden in "On the Sly," a compelling, wholly original tale marred a bit by its young heroine's incessant chatter on the soundtrack.

True enough, the girl, Cathy (Wynona Ringer), 6 years old, has every right to speak to herself nonstop. After all, no one else will communicate with her in this Belgian-French production.

Cathy's preoccupied parents pack her into the family station wagon every week like luggage, and drive from Paris to a getaway home in the country. They don't talk to her at all (or to each other) and nearly drive off from a gas station without her.

On those weekends, Cathy watches her father (Olivier Ringer, the film's co-writer and director, and Wynona's dad) go off fishing, silently yearning to accompany him. Her mother (real-life mom Macha Ringer) walks out the door, without a word, to go shopping.

What can a kid conclude but that, in some sense, she's invisible?

So it is that Cathy pulls an actual vanishing act, hiding deep in some woods and eluding searches. In ensuing days and weeks, she becomes Robinson Crusoe, surviving by her immersion into primitive instincts.

Her imaginative interpretation of sometimes-scary events and her communication with other species begin to feel like the foundation of myth and religion.

Director Ringer has found a fascinating, child-centric angle on this quasi-fable for all ages — a new story with echoes of everything from Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are" to François Truffaut's "The Wild Child" to Terrence Malick's "Badlands."

While Crusoe did become a chatterbug alone on his island, Cathy's ceaseless narration of her thoughts becomes an obstacle to the grandeur of Ringer's approach. A few scenes of pure visual storytelling would make this movie remarkable.

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@gmail.com

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