REVIEW: Une soeur [A Sister] [2019]

Rating: 9 out of 10.
  • Rating: NR | Runtime: 16 minutes
    Release Date: 2019 (Belgium)
    Studio: Versus Production
    Director(s): Delphine Girard
    Writer(s): Delphine Girard

I remember.

A woman (Selma Alaoui‘s Alie) is the passenger inside a car heading down a dark road at night. She tells the driver (Guillaume Duhesme‘s Dary) that she must call her sister (who is currently babysitting her daughter) after missing multiple messages. It only makes sense then that she’d be worried about the urgency to connect. What we soon discover, however, is that the woman on the other end of the phone isn’t a relative. Alie has actually called emergency services to covertly make an operator (Veerle Baetens) aware of the danger she’s in. Unable to speak in detail with Dary sitting by her side, it’s up to this stranger to ask the right yes or no questions necessary for clarity. One verbal slip could spell tragedy.

The result unfolds with white-knuckle suspense as writer/director Delphine Girard cuts between the interior of Dary’s automobile and the emergency call room. Baetens’ operator is thrust into the role described by the title: Une soeur [A Sister], desperate to ensure Alie doesn’t hang-up only to never be heard from again. For every question asked comes an answer that’s alternately cryptic, irrelevant, or exactly what is needed. With those responses come rapid-paced memories of assault as the victim relives her recent trauma while attempting to remain calm enough for the interaction to seem as innocuous as possible. Sometimes she’s able to and other times she’s not as Dary grows more impatient and erratic. The moment he tells Alie to stop talking is the moment when courage must transcend fear.

It’s a tense ride that could end in life or death depending on how cornered Dary feels. This uncertainty stems from the answers Alie provides. Did he hit you? “No.” Did he push you? “No.” These are questions to which she could have said, “Yes” without repercussion, but she doesn’t because what he did goes beyond the physical. And while Baetens’ character being a woman proves important to the plot, it’s also crucial to the experience itself. Because what might a man have done with those answers? Would he have felt the urgency? Would he have known Dary’s potential for violence was just as meaningful as if he’d already committed it? Girard confronts so many implicit questions with one simple conceit and it’s all the more powerful as a result.

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