sat 13/04/2024

My Skinny Sister | reviews, news & interviews

My Skinny Sister

My Skinny Sister

Fine performances in a touching eating-disorder drama from Sweden

Sisterly affection: Amy Deasismont and Rebecka Josephson are magnificent as troubled siblings

First-time writer/director Sanna Lenken’s touching anorexia drama is such a heartfelt, fragile thing that it feels churlish to criticise it. Herself a former eating-disorder sufferer, Lenken brings a real warmth and sincerity to her portrait of an ordinary Swedish family rapidly unravelling when their elder daughter seems unable to overcome the horrible physical effects of her aching self-doubt.

Precocious tweenager Stella (a magnificent Rebecka Josephson) idolises her older sister Katya (played by former child star Amy Deasismont), dreaming of emulating her figure-skating successes, and dismayed by her warnings about female facial hair. But with Katya’s exercise obsession and nasty mood swings, something’s clearly up – it’s just a question of whether Stella is bold enough to jeopardise their devoted sisterly love by doing anything about it.

And it’s that intense relationship between its two adolescent leads that’s the film’s backbone – and shining glory, lovingly explored by director Lenken in sometimes wordless intimacy. Josephson has some remarkable moments reacting with wide-eyed incomprehension as darknesses from her sister’s more adult world slowly open up before her, and although Deasismont can be pretty shrill in her tantrums, there’s a convincingly panicky edge to her portrayal.

My Skinny SisterThings become ever more harrowing when the girls’ parents get involved – leading to a truly distressing force-feeding scene. But despite the unflinching emotional honesty, it still feels like something’s missing. Lenken hardly touches on any causes of Katya’s condition, and her parents – Henrik Norlén as the bizarrely unconcerned Lasse, and Annika Hallin as the nervy Karin (pictured above) – are scarcely more than sketched in. A subplot of Stella’s barely disguised crush on her sister’s skating coach brings enjoyable contradictions to her character, but ends up just creepy – and muddies the film’s main focus.

And that might be the nagging paradox of Lenken’s movie: that its theme is the awful effects of eating disorders, but its central character is an observer, not the sufferer. Made all the more evident by Josephson’s captivating performance, at once awkward and tender, and captured beautifully in the muted colours and wobbly focus of Moritz Schultheiss’s melancholy cinematography. It’s a poignant, provocative achievement, but not one that sheds much new light on its central concern.

Overleaf: watch the trailer for My Skinny Sister

Despite the film's unflinching emotional honesty, it still feels like something’s missing


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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