The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema/Curzon] - MY LITTLE SISTER | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema/Curzon] - MY LITTLE SISTER

my little sister review
A writer contends with a failing marriage and her Cancer stricken brother.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Stéphanie Chuat, Véronique Reymond

Starring: Nina Hoss, Lars Eidinger, Marthe Keller, Jens Albinus, Thomas Ostermeier, Linne-Lu Lungerhausen, Noah Tscharland

my little sister poster

Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond's second feature, My Little Sister, is Switzerland's selection for this year's Academy Awards, and it ticks two main boxes for Oscar qualification. It features a protagonist stricken with a terminal illness, and another one who finds themselves contending with an artistic malaise.

Nina Hoss is Lisa, the titular kid sister - by a mere two minutes - of her twin brother Sven (Lars Eidinger). Lisa and Sven come from a Berlin theatrical dynasty - she's a playwright while he's a renowned actor. Or rather, she was a playwright and he was an actor. Life has since disrupted their careers. Having accompanied her husband, Martin (Jens Albinus), to Switzerland where the couple teach at a prestigious music conservatory, Lisa's writing career has stalled. Sven has more serious issues to deal with - he's dying from Cancer.

my little sister review

When Lisa moves Sven in to her family home, the frictions between herself and Martin come to the fore. Sven's plans of returning to the stage are naively backed up by Lisa, pitting the siblings at odds with their Berlin theatre director and Lisa's ex-lover David (who in a piece of method casting is played by Thomas Ostermeier, real life director of Berlin's Schaubuehne theatre).

We've seen so many screen depictions of chronic illness at this point that if a movie can't find an original approach to such a portrayal, it inevitably comes across as a cynical piece of awards bait. Chuat and Reymond can't find anything interesting or insightful to do with Sven, who gradually fades into the background as the film becomes more interested in his sister's marital and professional struggles.

my little sister review

At one point Sven observes a wall of post-it notes Lisa has assembled with the bare bones of a play she wishes to write. He mocks the inclusion of a masturbation scene and Lisa agrees that the idea of troubled characters retreating to sexual pleasure has become a cliché, yet My Little Sister is guilty of this very trope when a bitter Sven reacts to losing his stage career by receiving a blow job from a stranger in the bathroom of a nightclub.

My Little Sister reduces Sven to a prop to motivate Lisa to turn her life around. The sicker he gets, the more she seems to be inspired artistically, culminating in her knocking out a dialogue with the intention of having it performed on stage by her brother. I know filmmakers are artists, and like any artists they can be guilty of taking their art a little too seriously, but Chuat and Reymond treat Writer's Block as though it's a more life-threatening ailment than Cancer.

my little sister review

It's difficult to care about Lisa's artistic and professional ambitions when her brother is literally dying before our eyes. The film's feminist intentions are completely undermined by Sven's plight, asking us to be content with the suffering of a gay man if it helps a woman (one who is blessed with beauty and money if not existential contentment) find her writing mojo. Ultimately I found myself asking whether there was any real need for Sven's character, and the only answer I could come with was, well it is "Awards Season."

My Little Sister
 is in UK/ROI cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from October 8th.

2021 movie reviews