It was easy to understand why "My Skinny Sister" drew such a large crowd at the Milwaukee Film Festival screening I attended with my teenage daughter last night. This film, even from my novice movie-reviewerís perspective, was especially deserving of all the compelling reviews and awards itís received in its home country and at various film festivals in the U.S. and around the world.

"Min lilla syster" ("My Skinny Sister"), Swedish director Sanna Lenkenís debut, is told through the eyes of Stella (Rebecka Josephson), on the brink of adolescence. Through stunning cinematography, we follow chubby Stella as she observes and idolizes her pretty, thin older sister Katja (Amy Deasismont). Stella tries to do everything her sister does, and in doing so discovers that Katja has a dark secret.


Stella now bears the burden of knowing her sisterís secret. And while she is otherwise trying to be her true self with her friends and collecting little black beetles, whose armor covers them like masks, she realizes her sisterís purging and excessive exercising is far worse than it seems.

The love, humor, conflict and concern in the sistersí relationship, and within the family as a whole, is very real and relatable. As the story develops, these young actors ó so carefully chosen for their chemistry together and their abilities to act with both depth and childlike innocence ó tell this story with an incredible authenticity.

As sometimes happens in screenings of foreign films, I wondered if the quiet but obviously engrossed American audience was missing some Swedish humor. As a 100% Swedish American I laughed a little more often than most people around me, but Iím pretty sure that even though "My Skinny Sister" definitely has delightful comedic relief now and then ó and the sistersí laughter was genuine and contagious ó this was a melodrama by American standards. But the subtitles were easy to read, and it really was an uplifting film about a heavy topic rarely portrayed on screen.

On the way home, my daughter and I reviewed some details with each other, noting that one of the quietest messages of the film was that deep relationships will reveal themselves in the most difficult times. A nice thing for a mother of a teen to hear.

Amanda Robison