The Sydney Film Festival is now in full effect. One of the festivals’ much anticipated films is by Swedish director Sanna Lenken and her first feature length drama, My Skinny Sister (or Min lilla syster), which is able to portray the important issues of mental health, while telling a story of family and a child growing up.
This powerful Nordic drama directed by Sanna Lenken is able to give insight to mental illness, sisterhood and eating disorders with added humour to express a fresh take on the issue. My Skinny Sister follows the relationship of two sisters; the younger one, 12 year old Stella (Rebecca Josephson), who is seen as a chubby young child and her older sister Katja (Amy Deasismont), who is a slender teenager and a star ice skater. The sisters’ relationship looks like any other; they care for each other, but aggravate each other at the same time. However, Katja seems to spend much of her time at the ice rink, day and night preparing for performances. While Stella tries to do what any younger sibling does, emulate the success of her older sister; she seems to always fall over again and again. This occurs while the child begins to develop a crush on her sister’s skating coach Jakob (Maxim Mehmet), expressing the transition to maturity and adulthood in young children. Shining under this heart-warming family story and Katja’s success is the eating disorder that frets her little sister to no end, but which her parents ignore.
The film was received well at many film festivals including winning the audience award at the Gothenburg Film Festival and the Crystal Bear from the youth jury in Berlin. The film has been described as a Nordic ‘Little Miss Sunshine’, portraying the issues of mental health and how they affect various members within a family.
Drawing on her own previous experience with anorexia, Lenken was able to portray the issues of innocence and eating disorders through the point of view of the adolescence, Stella. This was able to give a fresh take on the situation, while conveying the personal dilemma within the child and how it will shape her as she matures. This was created by making the film look like is from the perspective of a child, with lower shots and conversations only a child would be able to hear, and is able to reflect how children see mental health today.
The chemistry between the sisters excels at creating a realistic portrayal of family, while actually resembling each other physically. Despite, the newcomer of Josephson into the acting scene, she is able to create and portray a well-rounded character that expresses the naivety and innocence we once all implored as a child. She is also able to convict her idolisation of her older sister and her attempt to copy her. The film is able to convey an incredible and somewhat unnerving accuracy of true sibling relationships and how that is lacking in most modern film.
However, the sisters parents, who ignore their daughter’s issues and eating disorders all together, at times seem like are there to move the plot, rather to drive the emotion and portrayal of family throughout the film. Despite this, the film is still able to convey the authenticity and emotion in order to express the meaning Lenken was meaning to create.
The film is incredibly attractive, visually eye capturing. However, there is some issues with the consistency with the cinematography and shakiness from Moritz Shyltheiss, which is able to be ignored to focus on the issues portrayed within the film. It is able to embrace and capture the true pain and harm this illness is able to cause on not only its victims and their families as well.
This film holds such an important image and is able to convey these issues in a distinct but realistic manner, highlighting both the problems with society and the pain that comes within family and illness.
You can catch My Skinny Sister at the Sydney Film Festival on Monday 8th June at 12pm or Saturday 13th June 11:30am.
Review by Emilia Aslan
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