Pining for things Alpine? Slalom can at least fill in for that February half-term ski trip in providing great shots of the mountains, some apres ski partying and all the paraphernalia of poles, boot rooms and cable cars.
There is, however, a darker tone in this very fine debut feature from Charlene Favier, who grew up in Val d’Isere, is a qualified ski instructor and now draws on some troubling trauma from her sporting past for this story of a relationship between a ski coach and a new pupil.
Belgian actor Jeremie Renier lends his handsome yet brooding, creepy charisma to the role of Fred, whose own ski career was cut short before he became a demanding coach to France’s young Olympic hopefuls.
Noee Abita, a fast-rising French star who recently won a Lumiere award, plays Lyz, the 15-year-old with a dream of winning gold but pretty soon she’s having to strip for Fred so he can take her body fat measurements and monitor her periods: “They are beautiful, cosmic, they go with the moon.”
Lyz is in thrall to Fred. Because he’s grooming her, yet also driving her to win.
The complexity of the relationship is uncomfortably gripping, thanks to the superb performances and the dextrous direction which gets all the atmosphere of the strange bubble of a ski resort and elite training yet also captures the giddy confusion of youth. The ski scenes are superbly filmed, too, a rush of action and recklessness.
Hear my interview with director Charlene Favier on my Totally Wired Show here.