‘Three Peaks’ Review: On Vacation With Mom’s Boyfriend

“Three Peaks,” an insinuating, sometimes tense and pleasingly open-ended domestic drama from the Berlin-born director Jan Zabeil, opens with a shot of three side-by-side pools. A man, Aaron (Alexander Fehling), is teaching Tristan (Arian Montgomery), to swim. Lea (Bérénice Bejo), the boy’s mother, joins them, but soon it becomes clear that Aaron is not Tristan’s father — and that young Tristan is still getting used to living as a family with his mom’s boyfriend.

The film follows this provisional family on a getaway in the Dolomites. There are three pools, three characters, three mountain peaks and three languages. Lea wonders why Tristan has stopped speaking to her in her native French after he has spoken with Aaron in German. When George, Tristan’s unseen father, calls his son on a cellphone Lea didn’t know the boy had, it’s a mild surprise when Tristan begins speaking fluidly in English.

Dialogue is just one means of concealment. Lea wants her son and Aaron to get along, but she worries that Tristan might be confused about who his real father is. Aaron says there are times he loves Tristan like a son but admits he sometimes wishes the boy weren’t around. (The close quarters in their mountain cabin surely don’t help.)

When Aaron and Tristan embark on the second of two hikes without Lea, the film grows increasingly hallucinatory — especially as Tristan, dressed in white snow gear, begins disappearing into low clouds and snow. “Three Peaks” has a placid surface, but Zabeil uses abstraction — with edits that elide information or play tricks with spatial perception — to deepen a trite scenario.

Three Peaks

Not rated. In German, French and English, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes.

Three Peaks

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