Review by Sean Boelman
Charléne Favier’s Slalom is a highly topical film, dealing with an issue that hasn’t been discussed in cinema very often before. And while this is a discussion that really needs to happen, Favier’s approach isn’t the most consistent or tender, making this a better starting point than a conversation in and of itself.
The film follows a promising teenage girl who is taken under the wing of her strict coach to train to become a top skier, only to form a deeper and more problematic relationship with him. There is an undeniable level of realism to Favier’s script, as there are unfortunately stories like this in the news all the time, but it’s set against a conventional coming-of-age background.
Without a doubt, the biggest strength of this movie is what it has to say about grooming and sexual predation. However, framing this in the context of a sports coming-of-age story is somewhat questionable. Granted, this does happen to young women in the sports world, but the film presents it in an analog to a rite of passage. The message here is obvious, but not conveyed in the most effective way.
The pacing of the movie is interesting, drawing the viewer into the protagonist’s world of intense training. Her exercises are shot in a very static and almost monotonous way to make the audience feel the nature of the character’s routine. However, the film never crosses over into tedium, these prolonged shots instead having a somewhat hypnotic feel to them.
That said, one of the areas in which Favier’s script could have used some improvement is the character development. The movie leans a little too heavily on the audience’s pity for the protagonist as a victim, and while this does have the intended emotional effect, it would have been nice to see the character given more depth outside of her aspirations and victimhood.
For the most part, Favier uses a very simple shooting style, instead emphasizing the power of the performances and script. The use of color in the film is beautiful and creates some interesting (if straightforward) symbolism. Of course, there are some very pretty shots of the mountains down which the characters are skiing, but the actors are the stars of the show.
Young actress Noée Abita gives a nuanced and subtle performance as the lead. It’s a challenging role that easily could have pushed the movie into melodramatic territory with a bad turn, but Abita dials into the more minute details of the script. Jérémie Renier is also excellent and fittingly disturbing as the predatory coach.
Slalom is an interesting film, and while its approach isn’t always the most effective, the message is one that needs to be heard by audiences. Hopefully this will open the door to a more open discussion about these issues.
Slalom hits virtual cinemas on April 9. A list of participating locations can be found here.