“Maybe you could love daddy again.”
Centered around a family that tears itself apart during a mountain getaway, Jan Zabeil’s Three Peaks is an exhausting, uninventive and repetitive drama that underwhelms and overextends as it analyzes the bonds that help to define a family.
Aaron (Alexander Fehling) takes his new lover Lea (Bérénice Bejo) to a cabin in the mountains of Switzerland so he can bond with her eight-year-old son Tristan (Arian Montgomery). The boy isn’t handling the new relationships well, so a change in scenery will hopefully open the door to a more positive relationship.
However, getting away from the fast paced world we live in is always easier said than done. Though the snow capped mountains and small log cabin make for a blissful visual, much like the family’s current state, the insides don’t match the exterior. The forced smiles bring to light a hardship within the relationship, one that is personified as Tristian embarks on a rebellious tirade, dead set on ending the courtship and returning his parents to one another.
The first hour is painful to watch as actions outweigh dialogue. Rather than allow the family to discuss one another, they go about their activities will little interaction. It isn’t until Tristian begins to sabotage their sleeping arrangement that things begin to pick up speed. It is at this moment that we begin to fully realize Aaron’s back and forth emotions as he teeters between affection and animosity towards his girlfriend’s son. Never fully comfortable, his tension translates well, offering up one of the few glances we get at actual emotion laded within the otherwise stale narrative.
When Aaron impulsively takes Tristian out wondering, he does so with caution. Though he does want to build on his relationship with the young man, he is drifting outside of his comfort zone without Lea’s accompaniment. It is on this voyage that the audience’s patience is finally rewarded as the story makes a sudden shift. Gone are the lazy exchanges, replaced with those of hate, frustration and anger as a rebellious streak transitions into one of violence - including a cold hearted plunge into an ice covered lake.
Think Damien from Richard Donner’s Gregory Peck starrer The Omen. The cruel look in the eyes, the lacking emotional capacity to fully understand his actions, Tristian is a boy with problems far exceeding the dislike for his mom’s new boyfriend. The last half hour is one of immense anxiousness as we painfully bear witness to the unfortunate result of a well intended good deed.
Ultimately Zabeil is unable to match the beauty of his film’s surroundings. His narrative is inconsistent, unoriginal and wastes its most prominent star, Bérénice Bejo. Though the third act provides a much needed improvement, it can’t save the bigger picture. A slow burn can undoubtably work. but a burn this slow is just painful.