Friday, April 9, 2021

Slalom - Movie Review

The Movie: Slalom

The Director: Charlène Favier

The Cast: Noée Abita, Jérémie Renier, Marie Denarnaud, Muriel Combeau, Maïra Schmitt, Axel Auriant

The Story: Under the guidance of a strict ex champion, a promising 15 year old girl trains as a professional skiing star. Will she be able to endure the physical and emotional pressures?

The Review:
Most sports movies are very heroic and exciting and all the fun stuff that leaves you inspired and hopeful as you walk out of the theater, or get up from your couch. This is not that type of movie although I need you to keep in mind that I'm not saying that as a knock on the film. I just don't want you to have the wrong type of expectation for what this film really is. Charlène Favier's debut narrative feature is basically Whiplash if it was a #metoo sports movie although not quite as arm chair grabbing intense, if that makes sense. The director uses light and darkness and shadow in ways that make wide open spaces feel claustrophobic and gives you a sense that the world is collapsing around her lead character in an almost inevitable way.

Most of the movie is dark and moody which allows the director to take a deep dive into the emotions and mental well being of 15 year old aspiring Olympic skier Lyz Lopez, played brilliantly by Noée Abita, as she is confronted with the reality of her coach wanting more from her than excellence in training. There are a couple different scenes where the coach gets extremely physical with his trainee and the way Favier keeps the focus on Lopez's face really allows the viewer to see the pain, confusion, hopelessness, and eventual acceptance. Abita is able to run through a million different emotions without ever saying a word

You can literally see how these moments change who Lopez is as a human being and how she sees the world around her and it's these moments that leave a lasting impression and make you realize how deeply a woman is affected, not just physically but emotionally and mentally as well. I think what results from these moments is the real tragedy that Favier looks to convey, I mean who Lopez becomes over the course of the movie. It's hard to explain without giving away too much but the whole thing is just very raw and brutally honest and unexpected although maybe not as unexpected for someone who has gone through similar circumstances.

I know this all sounds a bit depressing but I also want to emphasize that this is a very entertaining movie within the dramatic subject matter and Favier balances out the emotional heavy lifting by showing off some gorgeous cinematography and breathtaking footage of the skiers doing their thing during bot the practices and the competitions. There is an undercurrent of intensity running throughout the film that holds your attention and keeps you fully invested in Lopez's every thought and every breath and every decision. I don't know if I can say enough about what Noée Abita brings to the performance and how she fills every single moment with an intensity that just grabs you and never lets go.

The Verdict:
Slalom is a heart wrenching yet essential story and an impressive debut feature from director Charlène Favier. This is one of those movies that will stick with you, partly because of the powerful storytelling and partly because of the stunning performance from Noée Abita.

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