SXSW 2016 Review: “Little Sister” is the Best Indie Flick of SXSW 2016

Little Sister is the Best Indie Flick of SXSW 2016


One of my favorite things about attending film festivals is going into films that I know very little about prior to seeing them. Little Sister is one of those small indie gems that I saw just to fill an open time slot and came out shocked by how much I enjoyed it. Seeing smaller unknown films is always a risk but one of the best things about attending a major film festival like SXSW.

Little Sister is a strange little indie gem directed by Zach Clark who previous brought us the underrated film, White Reindeer. In Little Sister, we follow Colleen (the adorable and talented Addison Timlin) who is practicing to become a nun after leaving her home in Asheville, NC. One day out of the blue, Colleen gets an email from her mother Joani (Ally Sheedy) about her brother Jacob (Keith Poulson). The email states that Jacob has returned from the Iraq War and she should come back and visit. Reluctantly, Colleen borrows a car from a fellow nun and heads back home for a few days. While home Colleen is forced to deal with family drama as well as elements of her past.

Before the World Premiere screening, Zach Clark took to the stage at the Stateside Theater and told everyone that there were about to witness a very weird little film. While I have to agree that Little Sister is definitely quirky and odd, there is also a lot of depth to the story and its characters. Little Sister is about life told from the perspective of a lot different people in unique situations. I never thought I would be able to connect with a character who was practicing to become a nun but oddly enough I connected with Colleen throughout the entire film.

Little Sister’s story is broken down by days and the events that occur throughout each day that Colleen is home. Just like in real life, some days are better than others for Colleen. There are plenty of laughs but also some real hard-hitting emotional moments as well. Clark really has a way of going back and forth between light-hearted moments and serious moments.


The Iraq War plot-line involving Jacob was handled with such love and care. It was interesting to that Clark didn’t really bash war but instead examined the effects of being a victim of war. I don’t want to spoil anything but something happens to Jacob while he is serving in Iraq. This incident causes him to return home and become a hermit who barely leaves his parents guesthouse. It’s a real personal struggle that not only affects him but his family and soon to be wife Tricia (Kristin Slaysman).

Zach Clark and Melodie Sisk wrote the film together and while some will think that this is an autobiographical tale; it is not. The names of these characters are actually names of people from Zach and Melodies’ family, however most of the other events that take place in this film are all fiction. I think this script is strong for several reasons but most importantly because the characters and situations feel genuine and real.

Speaking of the characters, Little Sister is such an effective film because of the casting choices. In less than five minutes into watching the film, I wrote in my notes that Addison Timlin was charming and incredibly likable as Colleen. Timlin represents Colleen as such a well-rounded character with a wide range of emotion that audience members will easily connect with. In particular, I personally loved all the transitions that character goes through during her six days at home. Colleen is a complex character due to the fact that she has so much on her plate to deal with. You can honestly see and feel that Timlin connected with the material, which lead her to deliver such a powerful performance.


I am really happy that Breakfast Club alum Ally Sheedy was offered this role because she brought a unique and authentic take to the role. Sheedy has several great moments throughout but her standout scene is a fight scene between Joani and Colleen. The reason why this scene stood out amongst the others was that it felt incredibly raw and loaded with emotion. You can actually see the pain in Sheedy and Timlin’s eyes during this scene.

As for Keith Poulson, his take on Jacob was very genuine. This is a very different role for the actor because for almost the first half of the film, we barely get to see him. Instead, we just hear him yell something along the lines of “get out” or “not really.” When the character does become a more pivotal part of the story, Poulson brings his A-game even underneath the large amount of make-up that he is wearing.

Clark’s direction and Daryl Pittman’s cinematography was fantastic and added a lot to the film. The use of color serves a purpose to telling this story just like it did in Clark’s previous film White Reindeer. The colors used capture the fall and truly add something to the look and feel of the film.

All in all, Little Sister is a really great little indie film that reminds audiences to take the good with the bad. The film’s strong script and great performances (especially Addison Timlin) are what make Little Sister that hidden indie gem you should definitely seek out. It is one of my favorite films to come out of SXSW 2016 and I hope more and more people will be able to catch this quirky little film.

MovieManMenzel’s final rating for Little Sister is an 8 out of 10.

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