A girl on the slopes - and not only in the literal sense. 


Given that Charlène Favier's first feature is set in the French Alps and features a fifteen-year-old, Lyz (Noée Abita), with ambitions to become an Olympic skier, the chosen title, Slalom, might seem an apt one in its own right. However, as it turns out, it appears to have been chosen as a metaphor since this deeply authentic work is at heart a study of a teenager negotiating the perils of adolescence. Although the actress is actually twenty years of age, Abita could not be more persuasive in conveying Lyz's character and her emotions. Her mother (Catherine Marchal) has made sacrifices to enable her daughter to follow her dreams, but she has work in Marseille and a new man in her life. Consequently, she is less than a solid presence in Lyz's life. Although other youngsters are in training too, Lyz soon becomes a favourite of the coach, Fred (Jérémie Renier), a former athlete himself. Fred can be a tough taskmaster, but he has an energy that inspires the girl and one can see exactly why Lyz, who is still a virgin, should become attracted to him.


Before long Fred takes advantage of Lyz's feelings for him despite having an older partner, Lilou (Marie Denarnaud), and in doing so he is ruthlessly using Lyz to satisfy his sexual urges regardless of the fact that for her the affair quickly takes on an emotional depth that gives it far greater significance. Abita, aided by the script's convincing insights into female adolescence, brilliantly suggests the girl's desire for experience coupled with uncertainty and doubts. Indeed, she fully expresses the girl's move into this uncharted terrain which is something of a sexual minefield for one so young and inexperienced. Favier's film immediately suggests the real world and, with help from the expert editing of Maxime Pozzi-Garcia, Slalom is so compellingly convincing that it draws you in from the outset.


Impressive as this debut is, I am not certain if it quite sustains its quality to the end. At 92 minutes, Slalom is a relatively short feature, but the final third adds less to the tale than one might expect. It follows Lyz through to her participation in the World European Cup and shows us how she fares in it, but how well Lyz does at the sport is never a major concern for us. As for Fred, the film contains no outright condemnation of his behaviour but, quite reasonably, leaves judgment of him to the audience who can also speculate on whether or not his actions will be a source of future trauma for Lyz. Renier doesn't seek to encourage excuses for Fred's behaviour but makes the character all too true to life. Even so, despite Lyz taking a view of her situation at the film's close, I did sense that after the first hour Slalom had little of weight to add. Nevertheless, its portrayal of adolescence ranks with the best, a triumph shared equally by Noée Abita and Charlène Favier. For that reason it should not be missed.




Cast: Noée Abita, Jérémie Renier, Marie Denarnaud, Muriel Combeau, Maïra Schmitt, Axel Auriant, Catherine Marchal, Fred Epaud, Dominique Thomas, François Godart.


Dir Charlène Favier, Pro Edouard Mauriat, Screenplay Charlène Favier and Marie Talon with Antoine Lacomblez, Ph Yann Maritaud, Pro Des Julie Wassef, Ed Maxime Pozzi-Garcia, Music Low Entertainment, Costumes Judith de Luze.


Mille et Une Productions/Ciné+/Panache Productions/Jour2Fête-Curzon.
92 mins. France/Belgium. 2020. Rel: 12 February 2021. Available on Curzon Home Cinema. Cert. 18.