SXSW FILM 2016
By Don Simpson | March 16, 2016
Director: Zach Clark
Writers: Zach Clark, Melodie Sisk
Starring: Addison Timlin, Ally Sheedy, Keith Poulson, Peter Hedges, Kristin Slaysman, Barbara Crampton, Molly Plunk, Alston Brown, Tony Greenberg
Set in 2008, as Barack Obama tries to convince the population of the United States that hope and change are possible, the Lunsford family yearns for some semblance of hope shortly after a period of anger and pain. The political undercurrents of Zach Clark’s Little Sister cleverly remind us of Obama’s 2008 platform, passively taking on the emotional aftermath of Bush’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, showing the ripple effects of war injuries on soldiers’ families.
The titular little sister, Colleen Lunsford (Addison Timlin), has exiled herself to a convent in Brooklyn in order to find meaning in her life. From what we can gather, Colleen has estranged herself from her parents, perhaps as a way to deal in isolation with her older brother Jacob’s (Keith Poulson) severely disfiguring war injury. After presumably not responding to any of her mother’s (Ally Sheedy) previous emails, one message concerning Jacob’s return home intrigues Colleen enough to not only solicit a response but also lure her home. So, Colleen borrows a car from the nunnery with the understanding that she still has a few existential demons to battle before fully committing herself to God. For one, she must somehow reconcile her past as a goth Satanist, but Colleen must also find a way to get along with her parents and help her reclusive brother reenter society without concern of how others see him. The question is whether she will be able to achieve these goals in a mere five days — but then again (as the Mother Superior points out to Colleen), God created the world in six days, so five days should be totally doable.
One would expect a film by Clark (White Reindeer) featuring a goth-turned-nun, her monstrously disfigured brother and their perpetually stoned parents would be wacky as all hell, but Little Sister‘s (co-written by Melodie Sisk) household of misfit characters are baked in emotional honesty. It is a surprisingly sentimental story that tones down the oddball qualities of its characters, focusing on the struggles that are going on inside them rather than their outward appearances. Heck, Clark even finds a way to make Colleen’s gloriously twisted [sister] lip sync to Gwar’s “Have You Seen Me?” remarkably endearing. That is not to say Little Sister is not a magnificently demented film, because it most certainly is.