By Rachel Galvin
Swoosh…Swoosh… the sound of skiis on snow… both forceful and effortless, the prowess of skiier Lyz Lopez is evident as she maneuvers a serpentine path down the slopes of the French Alps as she races toward the finish line, winning… again. The movie “Slalom” provides a revealing look into the struggles and triumphs of this young athlete who finds herself accosted, bullied and abandoned and fights to have the strength to carry on.
This champion, only 15 years old, finds herself becoming stronger each day as confronted by challenges one so young should not face. Not only is her body changing, but her family life is changing. Her father is out of the picture pretty much and her mother now has decided to take a job away from the area leaving the girl to take care of herself. Indeed, her mother is more interested in her new boyfriend than attending Lopez’ competitions or even seeing her for Christmas.
Feeling alone and abandoned, Lopez also faces ribbing from her fellow teammates at this elite ski club known for turning out professional athletes. They seem more than a bit jealous by her accomplishments and the obsessive focus of the coach, Fred, who berates her for being not good enough at first but strives to shape her into who he thinks she can be. His mood changes as she begins to win and he becomes delighted by her accomplishments, admiring her every move.
He becomes the parental figure she desperately needed, doing everything from talking to her about her menstrual cycle to letting her drive his truck in the snow. When her grades start to slip, he even takes her under his wing and moves her in, having his girlfriend help her with her homework.
Even though his approach is abusive, he seems to be Lopez’ only supporter, save a female teammate who seems to possibly want more than friendship. Unfortunately, her coach’s passion for her career develops into something else too and she is subjected to his surprising unwanted advances, which take the abuse to a whole new level, as well as being confronted by his suspecting girlfriend. This film shows why someone would not want to tell on their abuser, not declare #MeToo, but keep it a secret, especially someone so young.
How will a girl so young with so much talent handle everything put before her and will she win it all?
Noée Abita, as Lopez delivers a strong performance with just the right mix of vulnerability and courage. Jérémie Renier, as Fred, showcases lust, frustration, drive, anger and control in his performance. The other characters all play a secondary role to this duo who serve as leads.
The story, told in French with English subtitles, is more than your typical ‘girl goes for a dream’ type of film. It isn’t even your standard coming of age story. It has a dark overtone that makes it a much deeper film that really shows the inner workings of someone who strives against all odds. We can see Lopez’s inner psychology, her thoughts stirring in her head, and understand why she tolerates certain behaviors, as well as how these experiences change her and give her the courage to stand up for herself and make an important life-changing decision. The story is exhilarating on the slopes, but heartbreaking to see what this athlete goes up against to go for her dream.
This film from Kino Lorber opens July 30. It will be shown at The Coral Gables Art Cinema (260 Aragon Ave.), which was among 12 arthouse theaters in the nation recently selected to receive a $2,000 grant from UniFrance. The grant was established to better enable U.S. based independent cinemas and distributors, affected by the pandemic, to showcase upcoming French film releases in the first half of 2021. The other film was “Summer of ’85,” which opened July 16.
“We’re honored to have been chosen by UniFrance and a committee of film distributors to receive this grant that will help us bring two acclaimed French films to the South Florida community in July,” commented Javier Chavez, Associate Director of Coral Gables Art Cinema.
For more details and tickets, visit www.gablescinema.com.