SLALOM – Review by Jennifer Merin

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Slalom is, as the title suggests, a film about skiing. Set in the glorious French Alps, French director and co-scripter Charlene Favier’s first feature is the story of fifteen year old Lyz Lopez (Noee Abita) who is attending a boarding school for gifted high school athletes who have the ambition and potential to represent France on the ski team at the Winter Olympics.

Lyz, who is one of the program’s most talented and determined students, is singled out for special attention by Fred (Jeremie Renier), the ski coach, a former champion who was injured in competition but is now hungry for the recognition he can gain as a great teacher if one of his students makes the Olympic team. He’s a harsh coach. Initially, he’s so hard on Lyz that she contemplates quitting — but, because her divorced parents are neglectful of her, she really has no place else to go.

As her skiing skills improve, Fred believes that Lyz can win competitions and bring glory to the school and to himself. He begins to spend more time with her, pushing her to work harder and encouraging her as she’s never before been encouraged by her parents or anyone else. As the two of them spend more and more time together, she becomes emotionally dependent upon him and he — well, yes, this goes where you suspect it’s going to go.

It’s not clear whether Fred is a repeat sexual abuser — a ‘groomer,’ as we’ve come to know sex offenders who prey on youngsters — or whether he’s so taken with Lyz’s exceptional ability that his excitement turns sexual. What is clear, and is most sensitively presented, is the confusion and angst Lyz feels as she tries to figure out what to do to in this situation that feeds her ski ambitions but damages her psyche.

Slalom is beautifully crafted. The story unfolds subtly, the characters are beautifully realized, the performances are completely compelling and the cinematography is magnificent. The theme is a tough one, but one that needs exposure.

In fact, stories about sexual abuse seem to be in focus in current cinema. They’re not easy to watch, but they are alerts to clear and present dangers to vulnerable youngsters and their unsuspecting parents. It’s very interesting to see how the theme plays out in this narrative feature that arrives so soon after Groomed gave us the perspective of an autobiographical documentary. These are important films that can make a difference for kids who need to know how to define and resist abuse.

EDITOR’S NOTE:Slalom is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for March 26, 2021″ rel=”noopener noreferrer” target=”_blank”>Movie of the Week for April 9, 2021

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is also a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).