Film & Television – Siblings

While sibling storylines abound in film and television, we are curating a list of films that veer away from conventional representations and delve more deeply into sibling dynamics.

Film

A Tale of Two Sisters (Korean: 장화, 홍련). Directed by Kim Jee-woon. 2003. B.O.M. Film Productions Co. (A Korean psychological thriller, with horror overtones, it is a contemporary interpretation of a folktale of the Joseon Dynasty that illustrates the love, concern, joy, and loyalty two sisters have for each other within a complicated family dynamic.)

Cries and Whispers. Directed by Ingmar Bergman. 1972. Svensk Filmindustri. (An acclaimed film set upon the return of two sisters to their dying sister and her nurse, examining themes of emotional distance, the body, touch, and religiosity.)

Les Enfants Terribles. Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville. 1950. O.G.C. (Sibling rivalry is often understood as a competition for something. Sometimes, however, it is focused on possessing one’s sibling. A disturbing take on love and power between siblings.)

Mozart’s Sister [Nannerl, la soeur de Mozart (original title)]. Directed by René Féret. Les Films Alyne. (A reimagined couple of years beginning when Maria Anna was 14 and her brother, Wolfgang, was nine. It’s a story of gender inequity within the family and European societies at large, artistic passion and prodigy, favoritism, and sacrifice.)

Our Little Sister. Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda. 2015. (Three sisters invite their half-sister to live with them, and relationships unfold).

Pauline and Paulette. Directed by Lieven Debrauwer. 2001. Belgium. (An exploration of renewed sister relationship after another sister dies, the role of money and inheritance in shaping family dynamics and obligations, and obtuse notions of disability.)

Tell Me Who I Am. Directed by Ed Perkins. 2019. Netflix. (An excellent documentary illustrating the importance of trust and the power of love between brothers to heal adversity as they reckon with their sexually abusive childhoods.)

The Makioka Sisters. Directed by Kon Ichikawa. 1983. Toho. (The relationships among four sisters in Japan are revealed against a background of cultural traditions, family obligation, rebellion, and four seasons).

The Prince of Tides. Directed by Barbra Streisand. 1991. Columbia Pictures, Barwood Films, Longfellow Pictures. Based on the book by Pat Conroy. (Marketed as a romance, the film’s subtext presents a troubled man who, after his sister’s suicide attempt, speaks with her psychiatrist. It illustrates the impact siblings have on each other throughout their lives.)

The Whales of August. Directed by Lindsay Anderson. 1987. Nelson Entertainment. (Two sisters in their 80s reflect upon their lives and losses and futures at a vacation home on Maine’s rugged coast.)

The Willoughbys. Directed by Kris Pearn. 2020. Netflix Animation. Based on the book by Lois Lowry. (Despite its flaws – the reckless depiction of children running through traffic – it centers on four siblings who go to great lengths to remain together after their parents abandon them.)

Television

Grace and Frankie, Season 4, Episodes 5-6, Netflix. (Frankie, played by Lily Tomlin, connects with her estranged sister.)

It’s Okay to not be Okay, TVN, Netflix. (Commonly described as a romance, this series depicts the loving and complex relationship between a young man and his older, autistic brother, and their friend who wants to join their brotherhood.)

Shtisel, YES Network, Netflix. (While there is not much emphasis on the sibling relationships between lead character, Akiva, and his brother and sister, the contentious relationship between the patriarch, Shulem Shtisel, and his younger brother, Nuchem, is dynamic in seasons three and four.)

The Secret Life of Brothers and Sisters, All 4 (UK). (“The young stars of The Secret Life of… return, and they’ve brought their younger siblings along for a camping holiday.”)

This is Us, NBC. (A thoughtful, nuanced drama depicting the relationships among three siblings and their other family members, and touching upon issues of gender, race, weight, insecurity, estrangement, and so on.)