I knew walking into "My Skinny Sister" that the film – which explores a teen-aged ice skater’s eating disorder – had the dangerous possibility of falling into the cheesy After-School Special / Lifetime Movie category. Luckily, it didn’t.
Instead, this first feature film by Swedish writer and director Sanna Lenken took a unique perspective and told the story of the struggling skater through the eyes of her sister, 12-year-old Stella.
Stella (Rebecka Josephson) is fixated on her sister, Katja (Amy Deasismont). Like most sisters, the two have a complicated relationship that varies greatly in temperature. At times, they interact in a warm and silly fashion, but other times, Katja is cold, controlling and verbally abusive.
One of the most redeeming aspects of the film – which also saves it from being a cliché – is that it unfolds through Stella’s eyes and therefore is less about having an eating disorder and more about what it’s like to be close to someone who does. For awhile, Stella is the only person aware that her sister is starving herself and she moves between compassion and anger. She also tortuously moves between keeping her sister's secret and asking for help from others.
Although the film contains graphic scenes such as a close-up of Katja sticking her fingers down her throat to induce vomiting, for the most part, it focuses on the abstract aspects of eating disorders and mental illness.
It reminds us of the power that people whom we care about have over us, especially when we are young. Although flawed, Katja is glamorous to Stella. For most of the film, Stella wants to be a figure skater like her sister, despite the fact she’s less talented on the ice. Both her desire to emulate Katja – as well as her crush on Katja’s 35-year-old skating coach – inspire her to keep skating despite her lack of success. She also squelches her fascination of bugs and nature, and is sometimes distant from her friends, because she is obsessed with Katja.…Read more...