Both enervating and exhilarating, Housekeeping is a very composed film about eccentric behavior. It is beautifully observed in many of its details, particularly in its very close examination of the relationship between sisters.
Based upon Marilynne Robinson’s well-regarded novel, Forsyth’s screenplay is structured around the impulsive arrivals and departures of characters fundamental to the lives of two sisters in Washington State after World War II. Men never enter the picture, as the girls successively live with their mother, grandmother, great-aunts and mother’s sister in the splendid isolation of a small mountain town.
Six years after their abandonment, when the girls are on the brink of adolescence, into their lives steps their long-lost aunt Sylvie (Christine Lahti). Tale then becomes that of the proverbial crazy ladies in the old house on the edge of town, but played rigorously without sentimentality or cuteness.
Newcomers Sara Walker and Andrea Burchill are splendid as the girls, as they manage to suggest the lifelong and quite particular bond between the sisters as much through body language and looks as through dialog.