VOD film review: Slalom
Ivan | On 21, Feb 2021
Director: Charlène Favier
Cast: Noée Abita, Mureal Combeau, Jérémie Renier
Watch Slalom online in the UK: Curzon Home Cinema
Warning: This film and review contains discussion and portrayal of abuse. If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this review or film, or if you need assistance or support, you can visit The Survivor’s Trust, or National Domestic Violence Helpline.
Skiing has always been a sport of terrifying downhill risk, exhilarating freedom and chilling loneliness. Slalom, the debut feature by director Charlène Favier, captures all of those truths in the tale of a young French prodigy – and how the last of those things can easily be exploited.
15-year-old Lyz (Noée Abita) is a rising star heading for Olympics glory. She’s determined and focused on her sporting development, even more so because her mum (Mureal Combeau) is away working elsewhere with a new boyfriend. Instead, her grown-up figure is predominantly her coach, Fred (Jérémie Renier), and they develop an intense and close mentor-mentee bond. While he inspires, pushes and encourages her, though, he also begins to take advantage of that – and crosses the line between teacher and pupil in a horribly calculating manner.
Director Favier, who co-wrote the script with Marie Talon, presents this cycle of abuse with a careful, sensitive eye, but they craft an atmosphere of harrowing claustrophobia that’s as unsettling as it is accomplished. The performances, in particular, are horribly convincing, with Renier’s manipulative mixing of insults and praise, which slowly pushes aside physical and trust barriers.
The film’s attention, though, is not on the abuser but the abused. Noée Abita does a fantastic job of conveying Lyz’s narrow focus on success and need for adult support and guidance, while Favier portrays the grim consequences of the situation with an understanding of the frustration, horror and confusion that follows. The loud, fast skiing sequences are a reprieve that offers some sense of escape – which only makes the quiet moments away from the slope all the more upsetting.