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Originally published Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 3:02 PM

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Young thief heads down a slippery slope to help 'Sister'

A movie review of "Sister," Ursula Meier's provocative 2012 film starring Kacey Mottet Klein as a 12-year-old thief who steals from customers at a Swiss ski resort.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 3 stars

'Sister' ('L'enfant d'en haut'), with Kacey Mottet Klein, Léa Seydoux, Gillian Anderson. Directed by Ursula Meier, from a screenplay by Meier, Antoine Jaccoud and Gilles Taurand. 97 minutes. Not rated; contains rough language. In English and French, with English subtitles. SIFF Cinema at the Uptown.

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"Sister" is the ironic, somewhat deceptive American title of a provocative new French film about a 12-year-old boy who supports himself by becoming a Swiss ski-resort thief.

Small but persistent, Simon (Kacey Mottet Klein) steals from seemingly indifferent rich folks to give to Louise, the older woman (Léa Seydoux) he calls his sister. Helmets, skis, sunglasses, day-old sandwiches, toilet paper — they're all trophies as far as he's concerned.

And he knows he can count on his height to fuel an ugly scene if an adult tries to reclaim what he has stolen. Just the sight of someone twice his size trying to retrieve a pair of glasses can be damning.

Still, pickings are limited, the turf is tiny, and he's bound to duplicate victims at some point. When he identifies himself as someone other than "Simon," and tries to become part of a family with a foreigner (Gillian Anderson from "The X-Files"), his schemes start to unravel.

No help at all is Louise. She hangs out with an abusive speed demon in a red BMW, who ditches both of them and leaves them to walk home. And neither of them is good at keeping money.

Reminiscent of the Dardennes brothers' "La Promesse," and presented as part of SIFF's French Cinema Now series, "Sister" was directed by Ursula Meier, whose memorably surreal "Home" (2008) starred Olivier Gourmet from "La Promesse" — and dealt with a freeway invading Gourmet's home.

Once more Meier uses striking compositions that create drama out of the contrasts between intricate transportation systems and the relatively diminutive people who use them. This time it's ski lifts that draw her attention, though Klein (who played Gourmet's son in "Home") and Seydoux give such naturalistic performances that they're never overwhelmed by the spectacle.

John Hartl:

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