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Review: Young nun returns home in ‘Little Sister’

Writer-director Zach Clark keeps a steady hand in this quirky but relatable family dramedy

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

“Little Sister” opens with a Marilyn Manson quote, so you know it’s not your average family dramedy.

The latest film from writer-director Zach Clark stars Addison Timlin as Colleen Lunsford, who left her family home in Asheville, North Carolina, three years ago to become a nun in Brooklyn. When she gets an email from her chronically depressed mother (Ally Sheedy), she must return: Her brother, Jacob (Keith Poulson), has been badly burned in an accident in the Iraq war.

So Colleen leaves the convent and returns to the home where her pothead parents (Peter Hedges is her father) call her “sweet pea” and where her bedroom hasn’t been touched since her teenage goth years.

“Little Sister” unfolds as Colleen attempts to reconnect with her brother (who spends his days in the guest house banging away on a set of drums) and her loopy parents, whose idea of togetherness is getting everyone whacked out on pot cookies.

Clark, who wrote, directed and edited the film, makes his quirky characters relatable and real. If the cartoonishly over-the-top clan at the center of the recent “Meet the Hollars” was a 10 on the zany movie family scale, the Lunsfords rate about a 4, and that’s factoring in a scene where the sister lip-syncs to GWAR’s swing parody “Have You Seen Me” to cheer up her bro.

Timlin and Sheedy’s performances resonate and serve the muted nature of this warm, but unassuming film. It’s set against the backdrop of the 2008 election, a time when change and optimism was in the air, and that feeling quietly underscores the hope at “Little Sister’s” center.

agraham@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2284

@grahamorama

‘Little Sister’

GRADE: B

Not rated: language and drug use

Running time: 91 minutes