Zach Clark sends us back to a volatile 2008 in his latest feature Little Sister. Aspiring nun Colleen (Addison Timlin) returns to the family and life she’s all but abandoned just a few years removed from her goth subculture high school days. While preparing to take her final vows as a nun to cement her lifelong devotion to her faith, Colleen has seemingly relinquished all individuality save for a pair of purple plastic sunglasses. As she spends time with family and hometown friends she regains fragments of the personality she’s tried to suppress, dancing cautiously on the edge of faith and self-expression. This beautifully rendered, politically charged narrative challenges viewers to question the compatibility of faith and liberty.
Colleen’s story parallels the political landscape of 2008 America: she copes with the impact of her brother’s recent facial disfigurement suffered on duty in Iraq while desperately clinging to optimistic change after a period of misguided hostility. Refusing to conform to a standard fast paced and plot-twist driven storyline the true beauty of this film lies in its genuine portrayal of familial relationships. Clark has constructed a delightfully awkward and gritty family dynamic that is ordinarily found only in reality. Heartfelt performances by Addison Timlin and Ally Sheedy elevate the film to uncharted levels of emotional authenticity. Despite her character’s drug and alcohol-fueled negativity Ally Sheedy, as Colleen’s mother Joani, serves as the film’s metaphorical sun, providing a bright performance that pumps energy and life into even the darkest corners of the film. Although Sheedy plays a supporting character her performance pulls the other actors into orbit and keeps the plot spinning.
Little Sister is as much charming dramedy as it is an exercise in introspection. As Colleen and her manic-depressive mother struggle to comfort her dispirited brother they begin to discover their own regrets and insecurities. Although Colleen moved to New York to find a new family grounded in her faith, her return home quickly unveils the loving, albeit eccentric relationship she once shared with her brother. They forge a new bond while struggling to find their place in the world as transformed versions of their previous selves. What Little Sister lacks in exhilaration is made up for tenfold with heart and precision.
With a wealth of uncanny humor, an unwavering dose of mortality, and a cannabinoid induced Halloween dance party, Little Sister proves to be a good-hearted yet austere, thought-provoking reflection on family, trauma, and self discovery. – Michael Toledo
Little Sister will have a one-week run here at Sun-Ray starting October 28th. We will be publishing an interview with the director shortly.-