Slalom

Slalom ★★★½

The coldest and most unforgiving movie about skiing this side of “Downhill Racer” — and just as fascinated by the loneliness of bombing down the slopes with the world at your back — Charlène Favier’s “Slalom” is a familiar story of sexual abuse, but one told with such bracing intensity that it snaps across your face like a blast of cold mountain air. From the opening moments of her debut feature, Favier pivots between powerlessness and control with the same breakneck agility that her teenage heroine navigates the gates on each run; the film moves in one direction (downhill), and it leans into every turn like it’s already charted the fastest course to the bottom. But predictability can be a necessary ingredient for precision, and “Slalom” is so effective because of how well it tucks into the heart of its story, as though shaving a few milliseconds off its running time might be the difference between victory and a lifetime of victimhood.

Fifteen-year-old Lyz Lopez (a raw and wrenching Noée Abita, whose open-faced innocence recalls Adèle Exarchopoulos in “Blue Is the Warmest Color”) has been accepted to a super-competitive ski training academy in the French Alps. Isolated in a lily-white snow globe that hovers somewhere between the world below and the sky above, it’s the kind of militarized athletic program that trains Olympic hopefuls to win at any cost, and conditions young boys and girls to abandon any part of themselves that might be making them less aerodynamic. From the moment we meet the program’s merciless instructor — and from the moment we see that he’s played by the great Jérémie Renier, who can endow any slimeball with enough matter-of-fact male entitlement to make it feel like there’s something perfectly natural about his monstrousness — it seems like the ski trails might not be the only thing that’s being groomed under his supervision.

READ THE FULL REVIEW ON INDIEWIRE