Three Peaks is a family drama/ suspense film set in the picturesque Italian Dolemites mountain range. It begins with the appearance of an idyllic nuclear family on vacation. Aaron and Lea are a young, attractive couple swimming with Tristan, their cute eight year old son who’s able to speak to them in French, German, or English. The vacation is interrupted by a ringing cellphone, which we soon learn was given to Tristan by his biological father so that they can keep in touch while apart.
In a sense, all three characters are protagonists, trying to find their place in this unfamiliar (to them) family dynamic. Aaron and Lea have been together for quite some time already. Aaron clearly already has a rapport with her son, yet Lea’s uncomfortable with Tristan calling him dad. This seams unfair, as Tristan is old enough to tell the difference between a father and a step father, and it causes a rift that’s felt through all three of them.
Three Peaks is a quiet film, decidedly un suspenseful for most of its first two acts. While families dealing with change like this is always inherently dramatic, there doesn’t seem to be enough conflict here to sustain an entire film. While Tristan is often quite affectionate, some tension begins to build through his ominous behaviour. It’s unclear how deliberate some of his actions are, but you can tell that director Jan Zabeil made some very deliberate choices with Tristan’s cute yet creepy appearance. His dark, sweeping bangs contrast his whiter than white snowsuit, making him look like a combination of Damian from The Omen and one of the creatures in The Brood.
Alexander Fehling, whom you may recognize as Wilhelm, the new father in the tavern scene of Inglourious Basterds, is the strongest part of Three Peaks. He leads a trio of performances which, along with the gorgeous landscapes, saves the first two thirds of the film from becoming utterly tedious. Fortunately there’s payoff with a surprising third act, but it feels like a bit of a hike to get there.