(French, Amazon Prime Video)
Directed by Charlène Favier
Rating: *** ½
How far does abuse go before it begins to turn around on the perpetrator? There are countless instances of girls(and boys) being sexually abused in sports. Slalom takes us to a scenic skiing spot in France where young 15-year old Liz(Noée Abita, stunning ) learns, the hard way, how to deal with her mentor’s abuse.
“This is what you do to me,” her coach Fred(the ever-revelatory Jérémie Renier) blurts out as he makes Liz perform an unspeakable sexual act in the car. Ironically, Liz is not “doing” anything to lead the middle-aged Fred up the seduction path.
At least she doesn’t seem to do anything…unless we consider the fact that she stares at him when he is bathing nude in the shower in the sports center, and when he talks about her periods she doesn’t stop him, as she should.
It is this fear of offending the perpetrator that encourages the abuser. Soon the hand-job in the car culminates in full-fledged painful sex in the locker room. We feel the situation slip out of Liz’s hands, and not only because she is played any actress whose eyes express a thousand misgivings about a Miss who is giving in without knowing fully what she is doing.
When push comes to shove Liz no longer has a say. There is this wonderfully tenebrous triangle that builds up like a brewing storm in Fred’s house, with his wife Lilou(Marie Denarnaud) when he takes Liz home. No pushover, the wife soon sniffs out what’s going on.
But the question is, what IS going on? Is Liz a victim? Or is she a young ambitious sportsperson who knows no better way to make her way up than to lie under the man who coaches her and controls her destiny. I could almost feel Liz’s fear when Fred abuses her. This is not the way to introduce a 15-year old to the art of seduction.
Debutant director Charlene Favier ‘s disgust with the exploitative situation and empathy with her young heroine are neutralized by her belief that somewhere between Victim and Predator there is a grey zone. The director explores the zone with a rare care. I don’t think the film is bothered with political correctness. But indecorous insinuations are nipped in the bud by the director’s fierce belief in a woman’s right to go as far she wants with her sexuality.
Slalom is not an easy film to watch. It has no distinct lines to divide the two sides. Noee Abita makes it no easier. She brings out all of Liz’s ambitions and uncertainties into her eyes. We can see her growing awareness of her failure to choose the right side.
As Liz slides into a moral ambivalence we hold our breath, hoping she would come up for breath and not go down again.