TIFF Review Three Peaks

TIFF Review: Three Peaks

Score: C-

Director: Jan Zabeil

Cast: Bérénice Bejo, Alexander Fehling, Arian Montgomery

Running Time: 94 Minutes

Rated: NR

“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.


About Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis
I owe this hobby/career to the one and only Stephanie Peterman who, while interning at Fox, told me that I had too many opinions and irrelevant information to keep it all bottled up inside. I survived my first rated R film, Alive, at the ripe age of 8, it took me months to grasp the fact that Julia Roberts actually died at the end of Steel Magnolias, and I might be the only person alive who actually enjoyed Sorority Row…for its comedic value of course. While my friends can drink you under the table, I can outwatch you when it comes iconic, yet horrid 80s films like Adventures in Babysitting and Troop Beverly Hills. I have no shame when it comes to what I like, and if you have a problem with that, then we’ll settle it on the racquetball court. I see too many movies to actually win any film trivia contest, so don’t waste your first pick on me. My friends rent movies from my bookcase shelves, and one day I do plan to start charging. I long to live in LA, where my movie obsession will actually help me fit in, but for now I am content with my home in Austin. I prefer indies to blockbusters, Longhorns to Sooners and Halloween to Friday the 13th. I miss the classics, as well as John Ritter, and I hope to one day sit down and interview the amazing Kate Winslet.

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