Zach Clark’s off-kilter comedy, Little Sister, sees young nun Colleen (Timlin) return home to help her injured brother. Though after avoiding her mother for some time, stepping back into their dysfunctional life was always going to be a rocky ride.
Set in October 2008, with Obama and McCain battling it out for Presidency, a theme of change runs throughout the movie. When baby-faced Colleen opens the door to her old room, she steps into a past life, goth posters on the wall, black make-up on her dresser. The nun-in-training is a closed book, slowly opening, but her mission here is to open up her brother.
Disfigured after a bomb went off in-action, Jacob (Poulson) won’t leave his room and their parents are at a loss. There’s no option left but for Colleen to roll back the years and weird out like they always used to, that means dressing in black, revisiting their old haunts, and for the first time in a while, letting loose.
Clark’s film is impressively bizarre; not outrageous in its humour but consistently dark and funny, and a black-as-coal heart at the core. His long shots create a brooding tone and his smart script is matched by the cast, all turning in understated performances that together provide real punch. And yet the film can’t escape the feeling that it’s missing something.
While the brilliant Halloween scene steals the film, Little Sister is a solid indie but not too much more. It’s not a film that will stick with you for days and just doesn’t quite engage enough. The compassionate family relationships are certainly interesting but I never really cared how they wo uld end up. Hopefully Clarke can take the experience on board and step it up again on his next one, because there’s certainly a lot of talent at this young filmmaker’s hands.