The directors Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond tell the story in LITTLE SISTER about a pair of twins who are confronting the issue of cancer. Our review reveals whether the drama with Lars Eidinger and Nina Hoss shines…
OT: Little Sister (CH 2020)
Lisa (Nina Hoss) was once a successful author in the Berlin theater scene. But then she moved to the Swiss mountains with her husband and their children. There, Lisa was struck by writer’s block. Her brother Sven (Lars Eidinger) experiences an even worse fate: he was diagnosed with leukemia. When the equally charismatic and ambitious actor is released from the hospital after a strenuous treatment, he immediately wants to go back on stage and take on his planned leading role in a new production of “Hamlet”. But his director is completely torn: He doesn’t want to play “Hamlet” without Sven – firstly because he is a driving force, secondly because no one in the ensemble can hold a candle to him in the role. On the other hand, he doesn’t want to expect Sven to stand on stage for three hours in an ailing state and play such a demanding role. On the family side, Lisa is incredibly annoyed by her narcissistic mother, who cannot and does not want to take sufficient care of Sven. So Lisa quickly decides to take Sven with her. However, the intensity of the brother-sister dynamic has a negative impact on their marriage. But spending time with Sven gets Lisa’s creative juices flowing again…
At the beginning, the authors and directors Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond (who have already directed the drama “The Little Room” together) with “Little Sister” give the impression that they want to tell a semi-fictional drama about theater artists: Nina Hoss (“Pelican Blood”) plays Lisa, who rhymes with her, who, unlike Nina Hoss, is not an actress, but as an author she caused a stir on stage. And while Lisa was lured to Switzerland by her husband, where she developed writer’s block, Nina Hoss was distracted from the stage by acting in front of the camera. Lars Eidinger (“Cut off”) In “Little Sister,” Sven, who is also blessed with a Nordic first name, plays – and with them the similarities between fact and cinematic fiction are even clearer than with Nina and Lisa.
Lisa (Nina Hoss) and her brother Sven (Lars Eidinger).
Sven is described as an eccentric but also immensely passionate theater actor, someone who boosts ticket sales and who makes an excellent Hamlet. All of this also applies to Lars Eidinger – and when “Little Sister” plays behind the scenes at the Schaubühne, photographs of Eidinger’s earlier “Hamlet” performances adorn the walls. And then theater maker Thomas Ostermeier, who has directed Eidinger as Hamlet 357 times since 2008, also plays Sven’s worried director friend David. But the directors Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond soon abandon this play with the reality of their actors and the fictionality of their story. The flirtation with metafictionality is followed by a cancer drama that is calmly told but also very clichéd: Sven suffers from leukemia and his condition is continually deteriorating, with steadily dwindling prospects of improvement. In this hour of need, his “little sister” is there to care for him, even though he insists that he should be the one to protect her.
“The flirtation with metafictionality is followed by a cancer drama that is calmly told but also very clichéd: Sven suffers from leukemia and his condition is continually deteriorating, with steadily dwindling prospects of improvement.”
While the sister proves to be her brother’s protector despite stupid gender roles, Lisa’s constant worry about Sven endangers her marriage. Although, strictly speaking, her husband sabotages the marriage all by himself: completely stubborn, ignoring Lisa’s exceptional family situation, Lisa’s husband constantly insists on his point, unable to compromise. He wants to return to Switzerland as quickly as possible; despite Lisa’s ever-increasing protests, he wants to enroll the children in a private school for the children of oligarchs and industrial offspring from Dubai. Exchange at eye level? None. And despite a scene in which he does sports with Sven to distract him, Chuat and Reymond portray Lisa’s husband in such a stoic and antagonistic way that Lisa’s marital problems cannot be taken dramatically seriously: Where should a dilemma between marriage and consanguinity arise, where There is no dilemma, but rather the simple choice between a cartoon meanie and a suffering, sensitive brother?
The two siblings with the children Linne-Lu (Linne-Lu Lungershausen) and Noah (Noah Tscharland).
And even apart from Lisa’s marital worries, the dialogues in this cancer drama are often cheesy and cliched – which, combined with the fact that the film appears very clean and harmless on a visual level despite its cool aesthetic in blue, toxic green and gray, takes away the ruthlessness of the story. “Little Sister” is not a tragicomedy and probably doesn’t want to be one, but for a drama about artists who take different paths in the face of a health tragedy (he can no longer act, she finally has ideas again), the film looks away too often, if things could get uncomfortable. As much as “Little Sister” drifts into a no man’s land: Eidinger and Hoss get the most out of the material. Eidinger’s Sven struggles believably with the course of his illness, sliding unpredictably from rebellion to painful suffering to ignorance to acceptance, while Hoss as Lisa apparently casually undertakes even greater ups and downs – she fights intensely and with backbone for her life plan, her marriage, her brother’s well-being and writer’s block. All this while receiving little attention. The little sister is the real fighter, even if she doesn’t fluff herself up as such, but simply makes it happen – it’s a shame that this game of identity in “Little Sister” is also just a bracket that frames a pleasant, interchangeable illness drama.
“Eidinger’s Sven struggles believably with the progression of his illness, sliding unpredictably from rebellion to painful suffering to ignorance to acceptance, while Hoss as Lisa seemingly casually undertakes even greater ups and downs.”
Conclusion: Two very good performances don’t make a remarkable film: “Little Sister” is a quiet cancer drama that doesn’t really dare to radiate a clear cinematic identity.
“Little Sister” can be seen in USA cinemas from October 29, 2020.