This brooding, intense film about abuse in elite sports is an absorbing, disquieting watch. Selected for Cannes 2020, French writer-director Charlène Favier’s debut picture Slalom sends its audience down a steep slope of traumatic experience.
Noée Abita is subtly superb as the 15-year-old Lyz, training to make it as a professional in skiing. She’s staying at an elite instruction school in the French Alps, under the tutelage of hyper-critical coach Fred (Jérémie Renier). His character has enraptured the protagonist, holding her future in his hands – as she sees it. Feeling isolated – miles from any family she knows – the lead begins to see him as more than just a teacher, and he takes advantage.
Renier is chillingly brilliant in his role and – together with Abita – demands so much emotion and attention from the audience. The politics of power are always at play as his influence and hold on Lyz intensifies.
The toxic cocktail of high-level pressure and the deleterious psychological impact of abuse against her sends the student slaloming into despair. The few scenes of competitive skiing are excellently shot, but this isn’t really a feature about the sport.
Rather, this is about the abuse of trust, power and a young girl with hopes and insecurities. The script is sparing and forthright; the plot is direct and maps out its course early, sticking with Lyz as she traverses the acute emotions of an extreme situation. The predictability of the pattern of the movie’s development is depressing, distressing and all too real.
Uncomfortable, arresting and essential viewing, Slalom is a powerful debut, replete with strong performances from the entire cast.
Slalom is released digitally on demand on 12th February 2021.
Watch the trailer for Slalom here: