My Skinny Sister
14th October 2015 6.30pm at Vue West End
17th October 2015 12.30pm at Picturehouse Central
The Swedish feature film My Skinny Sister is a partially autobiographical account based on writer/director Sanna Lenken’s personal experiences with an eating disorder and its toll on those closest to the afflicted. A family drama, it focuses on the tight bond between two sisters, Stella and Katja. The younger one, Stella (Rebecka Josephson), is an innocent on the cusp of adolescence, childlike in many ways, but brimming with curiosity and awareness of her budding sexuality. She clearly adores her older sister Katja (Amy Deasismont), a talented teen figure skater with an enviably slender physique – a contrast to Stella’s plump build. Despite the fact that Katja appears to be the favored child whose dreams occupy the lion’s share of her parents’ focus and attention, there is far more love than envy between the sisters. Stella and Katja enjoy a special bond, and some of the film’s best scenes are the ones that capture the sisters teasing, laughing and being tender with each other. The affectionate nature of their relationship only makes it harder to watch as Stella discovers Katja’s dark addiction to binging and purging, consequently enduring the wrath of her sister’s desperate self-loathing as she slides deeper into bulimia.
Lenken does a solid job of pulling strong performances out of both of her young actresses. It was an inspired choice to use Stella as the vessel through which the viewer experiences the harrowing confusion and fear that can engulf a person who’s watching their loved one slowly succumb to a deadly habit. Compelled by loyalty but understandably burdened with a secret too big for her to shoulder, Stella copes by alternately covering for her sister (who in the throes of her affliction can be unpredictably cruel), hanging out with “bad” kids and making incredibly awkward, highly inappropriate passes at her thirty-something crush. This last plot thread serves a purpose, but not enough to justify the amount of screen time it receives; it’s distracting at best and creepy at worst. The other weakness in the storyline is the uncomfortable ineptness of the parents in dealing with Katja’s condition; their heavy-handed approach is intended to communicate sincere parental concern, but reads as disturbing.
At 95 minutes, My Skinny Sister isn’t an overly extended feature, but its pacing would be considerably improved by a modest ten-minute reduction in running time. That aside, it mostly succeeds in relating the full spectrum of physical and emotional consequences suffered by individuals struggling with eating disorders and the people who love them.
My Skinny Sister is released in select cinemas on 27th November 2015.
Watch the trailer for My Skinny Sister here: