Lifetime TV movie review: A Sister’s Nightmare

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Cassidy (Natasha Henstridge) spent 15 years hospitalized for being criminally insane and on release shows up at her younger sister Jane’s house. Jane’s a police officer living with her teenage daughter (Peyton List) and fiancé (Matthew Settle). From the look on Jane’s face she seems doubtful she can trust Cassidy or that she’s been fully rehabilitated even after more than a decade. I’m always wary when films portray the mentally ill as too dangerous. Yes, there are those mentally ill who cannot interact with society and need to be under constant care and supervision a hospital wouldn’t release a woman after 15 years if it didn’t believe she’d be okay as long as she took her medication and continued therapy. There are double-checks. Of course then there wouldn’t be these Lifetime films. I’m dubious about this film.

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“It’s so private here. You could do whatever you wanted and nobody would know,” Cassidy says when she sees the beautifully open living room in her younger sister Jane’s home.

Jane keeps having flashbacks to whatever it is that occurred so many years ago that landed Cassidy in the psychiatric facility. They’re very tense with each other. Cassidy also flirts with Jane’s fiancé and cozies up to her daughter which she doesn’t appreciate at all. Jane tells her fiancé that she’s had regular calls with Cassidy’s doctor and he’s never once indicated that she’d be released any time soon. He told her about mood swings and memory loss. Jane travels to the hospital to investigate. Cassidy’s psychiatrist retired. A letter indicated that she should be released and continue her treatment as an outpatient. Jane remains suspicious.

“I cut my sister out of my life for good reason. Cassidy is mentally unstable,” Jane tells her daughter.
“Like me?” [her daughter has water phobia]
“No. You’ll grow out of that.”

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Natasha Henstridge plays the mysterious, potentially still volatile Cassidy really well. Sometimes blank faced, confused, sad, distraught. Often jealous, confused and trying to fit in. Occasionally hopefully. She shows so much in her eyes and her delivery truly effective for this wounded character. While Kelly Rutherford (who I’ve only seen on Gossip Girl) acts the perfect foil to her older sister who scares her so much.

She says that her sister’s bipolar with a borderline personality who murdered her husband. Jane explains everything that happened early on to her fiancé. Although mental illness doesn’t truly manifest until mid-to-late 20s. There’s another twist that I don’t want to reveal.

I DO want to stress, if you have a mental illness don’t go off your meds without medical supervision.

There’s an intense twist at the end of A Sister’s Nightmare.

–review by Amy Steele

A Sister’s Nightmare debuts September 7, 2013 at 8pm on Lifetime.

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