Elizabeth Olsen Truly Shines in New Emotional Drama, ‘His Three Daughters’—Read Our 5-Star Review

Also starring Carrie Coon and Natasha Lyonne

his three daughters review
Animal Pictures

Death has a not-so-funny way of exposing the cracks in sibling relationships, especially when it's the death of a parent. Family secrets can come to light, old offenses can foster resentment and, before you know it, that shared moment of grief can devolve into total chaos.

Director Azazel Jacobs captures this expertly in his latest work, His Three Daughters, which premiered at this year's Toronto Film Festival. In case you're unfamiliar with the plot, it follows three estranged sisters who reunite in New York to take care of their father, who is dying of cancer. As they wait for the inevitable, they spend the bulk of their time in his Manhattan apartment, where he's receiving palliative care. But there's almost always palpable tension in the air, courtesy of misunderstandings and long-held grudges.

Most of the film's events take place inside the apartment, so it feels very intimate and simple, but it packs an emotional punch and exquisitely portrays how losing a loved one can impact the already complicated bond between sisters.

In the drama film, we're introduced to three sisters who couldn't be more different—and the dynamic is easy to pick up on within the first 10 minutes alone. The eldest, Katie (Carrie Coon), is the anxious know-it-all who longs for control, and the youngest, Christina (Elizabeth Olsen), is the optimistic but level-headed mom. Meanwhile, Rachel (Natasha Lyonne) is the pot-loving oddball of the trio, who also lived with their father (Jay O. Sanders) since before he fell ill. Practically every exchange between Katie and Rachel is riddled with pent-up frustration. Christina desperately tries to keep the peace (with a cheery smile) in a situation that's already bleak. And Rachel finds it hard to connect with the seemingly perfect Christina.

Understandably, each sister struggles to grapple with this new reality that involves rotating shifts in their dad's room, setting up Do Not Resuscitate forms and drafting his obituary, but it's fascinating to see how they try to cope. Katie loses herself in the planning process, Christina relies on her quiet meditation time and Rachel resorts to keeping her distance and smoking weed. It all feels like a gentle reminder that there's no correct way to process grief and loss, even though family tends to make us think otherwise.

his three daughters review 1
Animal Pictures

Dealing with their father's rapidly deteriorating health only feels like the tip of the iceberg, however. Throughout the film, these sisters unravel as they're forced to confront their unresolved issues with each other and years of anger that's been festering as a result. And it doesn't help that they're cramped in their dad's brownstone apartment.

Still, it seems like the very thing that's bringing their mess to the surface is ultimately also bringing them together. Even with the intense yelling matches, slammed doors and painfully awkward silences, there are rare moments when they collectively reflect on life with their dad and spend time together in his room. There's even one pivotal moment where they all gather in the living room and attempt to mend fences after a huge fight. It's an accurate depiction of how sisters go through that inevitable cycle of being mortal enemies one moment and best friends the next. And while they push our buttons, they remain embedded in who we are and prove to be our biggest anchors in times of grief.

Aside from the film's compelling themes and Jacobs's ability to tug at the heartstrings, His Three Daughters includes just the right amount of humor to offset the serious tone. (Just wait until you see Rachel's facial expressions.) The entire main cast also delivers powerful performances and are very convincing as sisters, but it's Olsen and Lyonne who stand out. Olsen gives one of her most nuanced performances yet, where even the smallest reactions convey the emotional turmoil she's trying so hard to mask. Meanwhile, Lyonne nails her part as the more distant and introspective sister who tries to avoid dealing with her pain and anxiety head-on.

By the end of the film, viewers are made to feel like they lived in the brownstone apartment and grieved the same loss, but not in a way that feels too overwhelming or claustrophobic. Rather, it's an up-close look at how death continues to affect the living—and a challenge for viewers to reexamine their own sibling bonds.

FYI, this movie isn't available to stream just yet, but Netflix announced that it will soon be available on their streaming platform.

PureWow Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

His Three Daughters is a powerful tale about loss, grief and the complex nature of sibling relationships. Jacobs successfully captures how death can expose old wounds and alter that dynamic, while also nudging viewers to reflect on their own experiences with icy family relationships.

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nakeisha campbell bio
Nakeisha Campbell

Associate Editor, News and Entertainment

Nakeisha has been interviewing celebrities and covering all things entertainment for over 8 years, but she has also written on a wide range of topics, like career...
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