Directed & written by: Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond
Starring: Nina Hoss and Lars Eidinger
Cinematographer: Filip Zumbrunn
As the love continues to overflow in the second day of Reel Love Fest, we take a deeper look into the instinctual love and care between brother and sister in the Swiss drama, My Little Sister.
Sibling love is complicated. As a sister, I can confirm from first hand experience that the trials and tribulations between siblings often make you question whether you truly love them or put up with them because that was the hand you were dealt with. Siblings can easily be the most frustrating people in the world because of how well they know us and how to get to us. But even with all the petty fights, pointless arguments and endless disputes over nothing, those things all become trivial once your sibling is in peril. The instinct of protection kicks in, and we are reminded that this bond is not easily wavered. In My Little Sister, director duo Chuat and Reymond remind us of that special bond between siblings as Lisa (Nina Hoss) abandons her dream in Berlin of being a playwright to live with her husband in Switzerland but is trusted back home to Germany when her twin brother, Sven (Lars Eidinger), falls ill with cancer.
With heart wrenching performances by both leads, Hoss and Eidinger, the drama is full of love displayed in subtle moments and dialogues exchanged by the twins. A relatable common ground Lisa and Sven seem to have is their tumultuous relationship with their mother, who seems to be distant and overly judgemental. This cold nature of the twin’s mother only brought them closer together. Having a loving mother myself, I still couldn’t help but recognize the similarity in those moments of siblings bonding over a parent’s vexing lecture.
I was prepared for the film to pack an emotional punch, but I wasn’t ready for just how realistically brutal their portrayal of cancer would be. Being such a vile and brutal disease, Sven was the one suffering from cancer but its impact is destructive to Lisa as well. It felt hurtful to watch Lisa witness her own twin, the literal life partner that came into this world with her, become so frail and lifeless. I was helplessly watching these scenes unfold and acknowledged the way cancer stole the lives of these artistic twins- Sven, a theater actor desperate to be back on the stage and Lisa, a writer who set aside her skills to care for her brother.
There are multiple scenes that show us just how much of an influence Sven is on Lisa and her writing, but there is a specific one that will hold a special place in my heart. “Switzerland doesn’t stop you from writing. June 3rd does.”
The line delivered by Sven to his sister is a tender, sensitive moment proving the power of love and how inspiring it can be to love someone at such great volumes. June 3rd was the day Sven was diagnosed with cancer, and directors Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond show how much this can impact loved ones through Lisa. Loving someone moves us towards making the greatest art, and as someone who feels most empowered to write when discussing matters of the heart, My Little Sister checked all the boxes in the emotional department of familial love.
The script does an exceptional job of playing with the idea that childhood and fairy tales and how your perspective changes once you grow older. But sometimes, you just wish you could stay a kid forever. No matter what age you are, we all have a piece of our younger selves, and I know my sister is definitely one of the people in my life that brings out the youth and petulance in me. In this case, I see it as Lisa’s kids but especially Sven, who is the one responsible for igniting a childlike wonder and creativity spark in her. She is moved by her brother’s need for the art and writes him a play based on Hansel and Gretel- a tale the twins have a deep connection with. Both characters are artists who breathe and live for their art, and their relationship is a sure reflection of that.
The Swiss drama felt personal and hit all the right (and emotional) notes for me. It is a story told in hushed tones that lingers from the very beginning until the final moment we get from the twins. The narrative feels familiar but it is a fresh enough entry into the familial drama genre that I would definitely recommend a watch- even from its premise alone.