MY SKINNY SISTER (MIN LILLA SYSTER)
Dir.: Sanna Lenken
Cast: Rebecka Josephson, Amy Deasismont, Annika Halin, Henrik Norlan, Maxim Mehmet
Sweden 2015, 105 min.
In her first feature film, writer/director Sanna Lenken delves into the life of a middle class Swedish family without sentiment yet with deep understanding of the subject matter. Her focus on the sibling rivalry between the two sisters is realistic and intense: their mode of warfare oscillating between blackmail and bribery.
Stella (Josephson) is going through the difficult time of puberty. And her physical and emotional changes are made all the more unbearable by her slightly older sister Katja (Deasismont) who has lost her puppy fat and transformed into a slim and budding skating star. Naturally, parents Karin and Lasse dote on their older daughter, spoiling her rotten, whilst Stella feels more like an afterthought in the family dynamics. Stella develops a crush on her sister’s English coach Jacob (Mehmet), finally testing him with a kiss to find out if he really is a paedophile, like her big sister teasingly suggests.
The dynamics between the sisters change when Stella discovers that her sister is bulimic. Since Katja knows that Stella has taken to reading suggestive poetry, she has the upper hand, making her promise never to tell the parents her secret. But when Katja’s condition deteriorates – she is unable to train any more – Stella finds it hard to keep quiet. She develops destructive tendancies and slowly her emotional conditional starts to become an issue with both at school and at home. Her parents, particularly the mother, are overworked and under pressure; helpless and out of touch with this emotional rollercoaster that has derailed their daughter. It’s up to Stella to save her, but before she makes calls for an ambulance, she makes it abundantly clear to her sister just how much she hates her. Hardly surprising, since Katja has now totally monopolised her parents. Judiciously, Lenken avoids a happy ending, leaving the audience with some insightful reflections.
Josephson and Deasismont as the warring sisters are brilliant, the younger actress is particularly convincing. Both show vulnerability and deep-felt aggression, hurt and neglect and convey this with stunning imagination. Their parents are a mediocre couple, who are helpless when things start to go wrong with their treasured ‘little darlings’. The camera stays mostly at a distance, but the few close-ups speak volumes. Lenken tells her story as a straightforward narrative without any detours, concentrating on the relationship of the youngsters, who, in different ways, are left to themselves with no real guidance from their doting parents to rely on. MY SKINNY SISTER is an outstanding debut, superbly casted and sensitive in its crafting. AS
BERLINALE RUNS FROM 5-15 FEBRUARY. COVERAGE CAN BE FOUND UNDER BERLINALE 2015
LECCE FESTIVAL OF EUROPEAN CINEMA | FIPRESCI WINNER
NOW ON GENERAL RELEASE