This film was previously reviewed in February 2020 as part of our Berlinale coverage.

There often exists an inexplicable and intense bond between twins; My Little Sister (Schwesterlein) explores the limits of such a connection. Sven (Lars Eidinger), celebrated star of Berlin’s Schaubühne, has cancer; his sister Lisa (Nina Hoss) – the younger of the pair by two minutes and herself a successful playwright – is donating her bone marrow in hopes of curing his leukaemia. After the procedure, they appear to have every reason to be optimistic about his prognosis, eagerly discussing Sven’s plans to return to the stage as soon as possible. 

When their mother (Marthe Keller) proves incapable of looking after her adult son, Lisa takes her brother back to her home in Switzerland, where her husband acts as headmaster of an elite boarding school. Idyllic shots of snow-covered alps establish a quiet counterpoint to the hustle and bustle of metropolitan Berlin: an appropriate place, then, to focus on recovery; at least until the facade of happy family life begins to show cracks. Lisa at first appears to be entirely in control of the situation, but unravels slowly, laying bare the undercurrent of frustrated emotions – regarding her marriage as well as her halted career as a playwright – with Sven’s deterioration progressing. 

Swiss writer-director duo Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond have crafted an empathetic and intimate portrait of a family increasingly in crisis. While Hoss’ screen presence is certainly the most captivating (indeed the role was written with her in mind), the remaining cast follows closely behind: meticulously modulated performances ensure that the characters and their relationships feel lived-in and real.

Despite a conventional narrative and predictable plot, My Little Sister is elevated by its skillful direction and nuanced script. This is a quietly stunning film that strikes chords of emotional truth, lingering long after viewing.



CAST: Nina Hoss, Lars Eidinger, Marthe Keller, Jens Albinus, Thomas Ostermeier

DIRECTORS: Stéphanie Chuat, Véronique Reymond

WRITERS: Stéphanie Chuat, Véronique Reymond

SYNOPSIS: Lisa has given up her ambitions as a playwright in Berlin and moved to Switzerland with her children and husband, who runs an international school there. When her twin brother Sven, a star actor at Berlin’s Schaubühne theatre, falls ill with leukaemia, Lisa returns to the German capital.