MOVIE: Sister Cities.
DIRECTOR(S): Sean Hanish.
WRITER(S): Colette Freedman.
DATE WATCHED: 01/07/2017.
WATCHED VIA: Netflix.
LENGTH: 86 minutes.
PERSONAL RATING: 5/5
Four estranged sisters reunite after their mother’s alleged suicide. Mary Baxter (Weaver and Smart, at different ages) led an enviable life, traveling the world as a young dancer. She was blessed with four daughters from four different fathers, each as unique as the cities they are named after: Carolina (Katic), Austin (Weixler), Dallas (Trachtenberg) and Baltimore (Bellisario). After Mary’s death, her daughters reunite in their New England family home to mourn.As the local police investigate the circumstances of Mary’s death, old animosities among the sisters resurface, and a dark secret threatens to tear the family apart. Faced with a horrifying truth, the estranged sisters must choose to either turn their back on the only family they have known, or risk everything to protect one another.
THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS AND ALSO CONTAINS DISCUSSION OF SUICIDE. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Man, oh man, this movie. I had gone into it expecting humor and crazy, wacky sister hijinks and instead had my heart ripped out and danced upon. Seriously, this movie almost made me cry and that doesn’t happen too terribly often with me and any sort of media. Part of it, I’m sure, was the incredible acting from all of the ladies involved; each one nailed their character/character’s reactions almost flawlessly. From Jess Weixler’s stoic and guilt-ridden Austin to Stana Katic’s uptight, morally 100% white Carolina to Troian Bellisario’s wild-child Baltimore to Michelle Trachtenberg’s terrified, perfectionist Dallas, each sister was unique and clear cut in their characters. Jacki Weaver did a wonderful job as an optimistic Mary Baxter, despite facing the horrible truth of her ALS diagnosis and her desire to end her life (with the help of Austin) before things got too much worse.
The subject matter is something that has interested me for a few years now – assisted suicide (either doctor assisted or otherwise) and the ability for an individual to decide to end their life when facing a fatal illness/bleak existence. It was fairly obvious to me with the opening scene, despite the fact that it wasn’t clear that Austin’s mother was talking to Austin about herself, that this movie was going to tackle a difficult subject. I honestly had expected it to be more about a potential murder than assisted suicide, but seeing Mary’s face and the way she was seated, I had a good guess.
That isn’t to say, however, that the movie lost any magic or intensity. In fact, opening with such a blunt scene caught my attention right away. There was no time for the viewer to adjust; they were thrown right into the thick of Austin and Mary’s reality. I personally love it when movies do this because it can be such a good hook, especially compared with movies that spend an inordinate amount of time with pretty scenery shots that aren’t necessarily important to the movie at all. (That isn’t to say I don’t appreciate those, because I do, but it really depends on the movie.)
Perhaps my favorite thing about this movie, apart from the acting, is the fact that it takes place over one single day, in one single location. There are flashbacks to various points in the women’s lives – from childhood all the way up to earlier hours in the day – that help fill in some of the details, including the slow unfolding of how Mary’s suicide actually happened but overall it’s one day in one house. And that, to me, really helped lend an air of claustrophobia to the movie as well as an unexpected (considering the subject) intensity to it.
This is definitely a movie that some people won’t like and some people should probably avoid due to the subject matter, but I personally think it was incredible and worth a watch, if you can handle it. There was nothing at all gruesome in it, but I fully understand the topic of suicide – assisted or otherwise – being a deal-breaker for people. But, personally, I think it’s absolutely worth a watch or two. Especially since it doesn’t seem at all like a TV movie; I was honestly surprised to find out it was one after I watched it and looked at IMDb.