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Lifetime Review: 'My Sister's Deadly Secret'

Strong performances and plotting make up for this long-long sibling drama's admittedly formulaic story.

By Trevor WellsPublished 3 years ago 4 min read

When she was five years old, Sharon Thompson's (Katrina Begin) life was changed forever after her older sister Raven ran away from home. Years later, Sharon is now a successful doctor and the girlfriend of city councilman Dev Jordan (Mark Famiglietti), who offers to use his connections to locate Raven after Sharon opens up to him about her sister's disappearance. With that, Sharon is surprised to find that Raven (Diora Baird) is living within reach of her house and goes with Dev to meet her, leading to an emotional reunion for both sisters.

Thrilled to have reconnected with Raven, Sharon quickly welcomes her sister back into her life, even allowing her to stay over at her house to catch up. But as things progress, it becomes clear that there is something Raven is hiding. In addition to not being able to recall memories from her and Raven's childhood, her behavior takes a turn for the bizarre and alarming. While Sharon initially wants to defend Raven, even she begins to realize that something is off about her sister—but can she find out what it is before it's too late?

My Sister's Deadly Secret (originally titled The Missing Sister) is an example of the oft-used "I Invited a Psycho into My Life" Lifetime movie format, with little being done that deviates from the typical formula for these sorts of movies. With the upfront reveal that "Raven" is an imposter, the film becomes less of a mystery and more of a wait until her true colors come to light. That said, however, My Sister's Deadly Secret opens with a mystery that stays on the mind as the film goes on: How does this woman know the real Raven, and why has she decided to pretend to be her? Other than that, however, the film plays out in many of the expected ways those familiar with Lifetime will see coming.

But despite the familiarity, My Sister's Deadly Secret manages to stand out from similarly themed Lifetime thrillers for the fact that it averts a common criticism they receive: the protagonist being unsympathetically naive and overly trusting. For a while, Sharon Thompson appeared to be going down this path, blindly accepting Raven's explanations for her disturbing behavior and rejecting her boyfriend and best friend's attempts to bring her to reality. But throughout the film, we're given hints that Sharon is at least partially suspicious of Raven and, by the third act, is completely awakened (by her own volition) to the fact that "Raven" is not who she says she is and kicking herself for being so oblivious to the red flags everyone else could see. It's an aversion that is more than welcome, and one I hope Lifetime continues to utilize.

Katrina Begin brings authenticity to Sharon's character growth, and keeps Sharon's naivete grounded enough to where it never becomes too frustrating and remains somewhat understandable when taking her past into consideration. Mark Famiglietti and Rachele Brooke Smith measure up to Begin's lead as her boyfriend Dev and best friend/co-worker Jill, who are both quickly come to suspect Raven. Smith, in particular, throws herself into Jill as she fiercely pushes Sharon to realize something is wrong. Darin Brooks also appears in the secondary cast as Dev's detective cousin Frank, who brings a charm to his admittedly requisite "Conveniently Connected Ally" role.

Lastly, there's Diora Baird as Raven, and while Baird gives a strong performance throughout, the writing for her character is a mixed bag for me. Baird does well as Raven alternates between feigning innocence to Sharon and giving off signs of her hidden dark side, and truly shines whenever she's allowed to let Raven's true colors show in full force. It's once the film begins to try declaring her motivation is when her character becomes confusing. SPOILER ALERT Initially, it would appear that Raven/Colette is simply an opportunistic con artist, intent to manipulate Sharon and rob her blind before taking off. However, with one moment indicating Colette was beginning to genuinely care about Sharon and the revelations about her traumatic past that she gives in the climax, her character becomes muddled and contrary to Baird's portrayal of her. Had the film kept her as a psychotic and greedy con heartlessly exploiting an emotionally vulnerable woman, it would have allowed Colette to emerge as a memorably monstrous villain and allowed for Baird's performance to remain consistent with her character. Spoilers Over

In addition to the problems with Raven's character, My Sister's Deadly Secret has some pacing issues, with the second act having moments of plodding and the conclusion being dragged out longer than needed before coming to an end that, while strong in its own right, replaced what could have been a more original and emotionally impactful closer. As a whole, however, the strong cast and subversive plot elements are enough to compensate for where My Sister's Deadly Secret is weak. The film's adherence to formula may turn some away, but for Lifetime fans, the familiarity is unlikely to be a dealbreaker.

Score: 7 out of 10 empty picture frames.


About the Creator

Trevor Wells

Aspiring writer and film lover: Lifetime, Hallmark, indie, and anything else that strikes my interest. He/him.

Link to Facebook

Twitter: @TrevorWells98

Instagram: @trevorwells_16

Email: [email protected]

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