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Review: 'Sister' tells an emotional tale of young siblings eking out a living on their own

Posted 2:31pm on Friday, Nov. 02, 2012

Unrated (strong language); 97 min.

The mountains loom so very large and the child looks so very small in Sister, a cool yet compassionate look at two people bound by love and shared struggles in a world of haves and have-nots.

Directed by Ursula Meier, the story turns on a 12-year-old, Simon (Kacey Mottet Klein, a heartbreaker), a cunning survivalist hustling to fill his belly and that of his lovely, troubled, perennially underemployed older sister, Louise (Léa Seydoux).

These are the world's invisible, forgotten ones, slipping through the shadows and moving along the margins.

Trading in the cooler, more emotionally detached style and vibe that characterized Home, her debut feature, about a family falling apart, Meier quietly goes for the emotional jugular in Sister.

It's an often touching, sometimes funny story about a pair of castaways and the moral awakening that brings them together and shows Meier under the influence of the Belgian filmmaking brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne ( L'Enfant, The Son, The Kid With a Bike).

Gracefully, she oscillates among visual, narrative and real-world extremes -- the big and the little, the rich and the poor, the grand and the base -- to build a story that is simultaneously personal and political, intimate and bigger than any one life.

In French with English subtitles.

Exclusive: Angelika Dallas

-- Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

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