Loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ice Queen fairy-tale, Disney gave us Elsa and Anna. Anna is the eccentric and bubbly redhead, and Elsa is the reserved and nervous blonde. But it isn’t all it seems. Elsa has mysterious powers where she can control ice and snow, which is the very thing that caused their relationship to end after an accident forced their parents to ensure Anna remembers nothing about Elsa’s powers, and Elsa is forced to ‘conceal, don’t feel’. To never have any contact with people, as that way, no one can ever get hurt again. Elsa and Anna prove that sisterly love is the most important thing in the world in times of need, and it is the one thing that not even the darkest of times can extinguish; it is a form of true love.
With that in mind, the IWG staff look at the greatest (and worst) sisters in Cinematic history...
Martha Marcy May Marlene was the film that saw Elizabeth Olsen burst from her famous sisters' shadows and become a force to be reckoned with in the cinematic world. Appropriate, then, that such a strong focus is placed on sisterly relationships throughout the film.
The title comes from the various aliases of Martha (Olsen), a traumatised young woman fleeing from a dangerous cult. Moving in with sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and her husband Ted (Hugh Dancy), Martha must reconcile her fractured relationship with her sister with her lack of understanding of societal norms, while keeping her experiences in the cult a secret and constantly looking over her shoulder for someone to be following her. The film flashes between the trauma Martha experienced at the cult (where she was known as Marcy May) and her inability to adjust to the real world.
The relationship between Martha and Lucy is a unique one, with Lucy clearly having a lot of love for Martha while frustrated with her erratic behaviour, obviously not understanding the cause of it. Martha, meanwhile, is emotionally distant and unable to trust her sister, causing tension and heartbreak between the two. But this is subtly played, not over-the-top melodrama. If we didn't know any better, many scenes would come across as merely Martha being an aloof and uncaring young woman, with Lucy as her neurotic and nagging older sibling. But the film takes great pains to show that this is far from the case. It is a complex dynamic that only gets more riveting as we discover more of Martha's experiences in the cult.
Ultimately, Martha Marcy May Marlene showcases a sisterly bond surviving the most extreme of circumstances. Lucy is consumed with rescuing her sister from herself. While Martha clearly loves her sister despite her trauma making it difficult to love or trust anybody ever again.
Another film which displays a strong sisterly bond which defies all odds has to be the 1998 production of The Parent Trap, a romantic comedy starring a young Lindsay Lohan as two 11-year-old twins who were separated following their parent’s divorce when they were young. Being the second adaptation of Lottie and Lisa, a novel by Erich Kastner, The Parent Trap delivers it all; laughs, tears, adventure and true sisterly love.
After parents Nick and Elizabeth (Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson) divorce, they each take one twin; Nick raising Hallie and Elizabeth raising Annie separately, never telling either girl of their twin sister’s existence. Nick and Hallie live in Napa Valley, USA and Elizabeth and Annie end up living in London, UK.
However, eleven years later is when fate steps in. Both Nick and Elizabeth coincidentally enrol their daughters into the same Summer Camp programme, where the twins meet and eventually realise that they were born on the same day, and each have a half of a torn picture of their parents. They hatch a plan, which will ensure that they would never be separated again; to reunite their parents and get them to fall in love once more. It is a heart-warming comedy with a strong message that sisters are meant to be together, and they can help each other through anything. Lohan gave a strong performance as Annie and Hallie which earned her a Young Artist Award for Leading Young Actress among nominations for other accolades.
Along with Annie and Hallie, Elsa and Anna portray a strong message which goes against the typical Disney culture. It tells us that ‘true love’ isn’t always a man and a woman, and it isn’t always in the form of romantic love. Love can be found in everyone and everything, and films like Frozen and The Parent Trap prove that family love is one of the best forms of love there is.
Sisters? I'll tell you about sisters. Sisters will always be there for each other, seeing each other through the difficult times, the lonely times, the times when you need to someone around. Except in the case of sisters Blanche and Baby Jane Hudson, two bitter old women whose mutual loathing has reached a dangerous level, so naturally they spend every moment together through the necessity of one caring for the other.
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is a vicious and bleak, but undeniably campy psycho-thriller, in which former child-star Baby Jane (who still wears the signature baby-doll dresses and little girl make-up to remind her of now diminished fame) is forced to look after her sister Blanche, the more successful star of the two who is now confined to a wheelchair (guess who was responsible). With the exception of the occasional respite delivered by their cleaning woman, Blanche is completely dependent on her sister, but is also helpless against Jane's torturous and vindictive manner of caregiving. It's a hysterical (in every definition) match of scorn, vitriol and jealousy and emotional torment that is as harrowing as it deliciously venomous.
On it's own, the film would perhaps be an incredibly oppressive piece, but it's the casting that raises the bar on this one. This film paired two of the most notoriously bitchy stars Hollywood has ever known: Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. The incredible move of brining together these two women, who had been locked in perhaps the most infamous feud that cinema had ever seen, as sisters who both need and repel each other is one of the greatest casting coups you will ever see. Crawford gives an excellent performance as the imprisoned sister, torn to shreds by the actions of the one who is meant to care for her. However, it's Davis that shines for all she's worth in a role that allows her to wander through the film as bitter jealousy incarnate, radiating utter madness and psychopathy. It's a shame Crawford and Davis hated each other so fiercely, since they were so clearly the same type of creature. All that time, they could have been friends.
Practical Magic is a film that is both cheesy and great at the same time. Revolving around the world of witchcraft and hereditary powers, Practical Magic has an epic centre but still manages to ham it up and have some fun at the same time. The story revolves around a pair of sibling witches whose family are cursed; whenever they fall in love, the unlucky man they fall in love with will die. While one, Sally, is scared of it, the much freer spirited Gillian cannot wait to attract a man. However, as they grow older and Sally’s unfortunate tangle with love leaves her widowed, Gillian falls in love with the wrong man. Turning to her sister for help, the pair unwillingly set off a series of events which sees them toiling with the afterlife.
A lot of this is largely down to Sandra Bullock who exhumes perfectly the likeability yet emotional moments of Sally. Alongside Stockard Channing and Dianne West as their crazy aunts, Bullock really pulls along some hefty moments as well as a woman tackling death and her abandonment of magic. It’s some great work and despite being a Razzie winner, Bullock is probably one the best actresses around who manages to change character and still stay true to herself. Unfortunately, she has to contend with an irritating Nicole Kidman as Gillian who simply becomes a source of irritation and flaps around with this stupidly breathless acting. Not to say that Kidman isn’t a great actress, it’s more Gillian’s childish antics that make you irritated. They are close and they have a relationship bound by blood, but people will warm to Sally more than Gillian
That being said, Practical Magic’s backbone does comes from the closeness of the sisters whether it be Gillian and Sally or the elder Frances and Bridget but the core of the movie is sisterhood. No matter what, men will never come in between them. And while sisters may bitch, moan and attack one another, when something terrible happens, they pull together to soar. The best scene of this movie is the midnight margaritas scene where the aunts, Gillian and Sally all come together to drink, talk and dance.
Oh, and there is epic naturalistic magic too which is always stellar to watch.
19-year old Nani Pelekai is the sole guardian of younger sister, Lilo, after their parents passed away in a car accident. Lilo is a rambunctious and mischievous little girl who rarely listens to her older sister, and even adopts a ‘puppy’, who turns out to be not only an alien, but an experiment.
Nani has to work full time to provide for her little family and doesn’t have time for much else, as her poor, persistent admirer, David realises. Lilo encourages her older sister to give David a chance but Nani can’t see past Lilo and doesn’t believe David is interested in her; neither does she have the time. Lilo wants the best for her sister, despite their frequent arguing.
As typical sisters do, there is a lot of arguing. Although Nani has to take on the adult responsibilities in the house, she still bickers like a sister. Screaming matches are had across the house, with chasing and wrestling often happening, or Lilo storming away into her bedroom. Nani feels guilty as she realises just how childish and inappropriate it is for her to stick her tongue out at Lilo in arguments, and tries to regain her power as the adult by apologising and listening to Lilo, then explaining why she screamed.
Nani is always on hand, at home or at work, to give Lilo advice on her problems with the alien experiments, or Myrtle, the red haired spoiled brat who makes Lilo’s life a misery. Saying that, Lilo can also be a brat and Stitch can cause many of the problems. Nani is busy trying to balance work with a high maintenance sister, who occasionally helps to destroy her place of work and then leaves Nani to deal with the consequences while she finds her next adventure.
The two are definitely polar opposites, with Lilo having fun and generally being carefree when not in the middle of life or death situations. Nani is the responsible, stressed adult who has little to no help at home. The girls appreciate each other though, and at the end of the day they love each other and would move the Earth for each other if need be. After all, ‘Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind.’