Title: Your Sister’s Sister
Director: Lynn Shelton (‘Humpday,’ ‘We Go Way Back’)
Starring: Mark Duplass (‘Humpday,’ ‘Darling Companion’) Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt (‘Rachel Getting Married,’ TV’s ‘Mad Men’)
While summer blockbusters heavily rely on visually stunning special effects and stunts to draw in viewers, one of the most intriguing, thought-provoking movies this season is the independent film ‘Your Sister’s Sister.’ Reuniting screenwriter and director Lynn Shelton with her ‘Humpday‘ star Mark Duplass, ‘Your Sister’s Sister’ expertly and courageously explores what happens when people realize their self-perception isn’t really in line where they truly are in life. The dramedy, which hits select theaters tomorrow, also interestingly explores sibling relationships, and the lengths people go to in order to save their bonds with their family.
‘Your Sister’s Sister’ follows emotionally unstable slacker Jack (played by Duplass) on the one-year anniversary of his brother Tom’s death. Jack continues to struggle with his brother’s passing at a memorial party held by Tom’s friends, at which he makes a scene. Tom’s ex-girlfriend Iris (portrayed by Emily Blunt) offers Jack her family cabin on an island in the Pacific Northwest, so that he can seek peace in solitude. Once he arrives, however, he meets Iris’ sister Hannah (played by Rosemarie DeWitt), who is unexpectedly staying at the cabin. Hannah, a lesbian, is also seeking catharsis at the cabin after the abrupt ending of her seven-year relationship with her girlfriend.
Hannah finds solace in Tom’s surprise presence, and the two bond over a long night of drinking. The evening ends in an awkward sexual encounter, which is only made even more uncomfortable when Iris spontaneously shows up at the cabin. The two debate whether they should tell Iris about their night, as Iris tells her sister she has developed romantic feelings for Jack.
Shelton once again created a realistic film that allows the characters to fully examine themselves with ‘My Sister’s Sister.’ Jack, Iris and Hannah amusingly showcase how people react when they realize their lives aren’t necessarily going as planned. Their self-perceptions dramatically change when they examine their sibling relationships aren’t as strong as they want them to be, and they essentially drift apart because of their faults.
While Jack, Iris and Hannah are contending with the serious issue that their relationships are strained because of their own actions, the humor naturally arises from the context of their interactions. Shelton smartly didn’t include set jokes in the script, which effectively allowed Duplass, Blunt and Dewitt to naturally bond and create jokes out of their own life and on-set experiences.
The actors also believably bonded with the story, each other and Shelton, as the filmmaker allowed them to help develop their characters. Allowing Duplass, Blunt and DeWitt have a say in the development of their characters’ backstories helped give ‘Your Sister’s Sister’ a genuine authenticity over the varied emotions they felt towards themselves and each other. While Shelton provided the actors with a script with some dialogue and a few sketched scenes, allowing them to infuse the story with improvisation also gave the actors a chance to draw on their own experiences to create a believable chemistry together.
Duplass was especially well-cast as Jack in ‘Your Sister’s Sister,’ as he pushed the character’s boundaries. While Jack is presented on the surface as a vulnerable character struggling with his disappointment that he wasn’t closer to Tom when he died and his growing feelings for Iris, Duplass wasn’t afraid to experiment with Jack’s comfort level. Through his high level of experience with improvising, the actor showed that Jack ultimately wasn’t afraid to push himself and take chances, as he no longer want to live with regret.
‘Your Sister’s Sister’ is a natural character-driven independent film that rightfully forgoes huge stunts and special effects, and believably portrays the internal and external conflicts of sibling rivalries and relationships. Through the actors’ natural bond with each other, bringing their own experiences to their characters’ back-stories and their increased ease of improvising while filming, the dramedy is a memorable look into the vulnerable interactions between friends and siblings. Shelton created another intriguing, interesting look into what happens when people let their guards down, and open themselves up to new experiences.
Written by: Karen Benardello