As Emmy voting heats up this week, Lifetime is mounting a hefty campaign for “Sister Cities,” a telefilm that feels much like one that earned a nomination for Minnie Driver (“Return to Zero”) in the lead actress race in 2014. That’s because both works have a similar emotional sensitivity brought to the screen by the same director (Sean Hanish).
His latest drama surrounds four sisters by different fathers who were named by their mother after the locations of their birth. In “Sister Cities,” they’re summoned home upon mom’s apparent suicide, but something’s wrong. Details of her demise are strange, including the suicide note, which may not be in mom’s handwriting. And the sisters have trouble processing mom’s loss psychologically because there’s too much friction lingering between them since childhood: old grudges, busted dreams, wounded hearts.
Lifetime has broken into the top race for Best TV film several times in recent years with “Grace of Monaco” (2015), “Trip to Bountiful” (2014) and “Georgia O’Keeffe” (2010). It faces fierce competition there now, but “Sister Cities” is also in the running for two exceptional performances: Jess Weixler as the daughter who dutifully moved home to look after mom in her waning days and Jacki Weaver as the doomed matriarch, who appears throughout the story in frequent flashbacks. Both actresses project a raw vulnerability that makes their roles rich, compelling and worthy of Emmy notice. Weaver gets a boost from having been nominated twice at the Oscars: “Silver Lining Playbook” (2012) and “Animal Kingdom” (2010). Voters are suckers for that.