Title: Your Sister’s Sister
Directed By: Lynn Shelton
Starring: Mark Duplass, Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt
I love my family and friends dearly and always try to go out of my way to express that, but, hey, this is life and sometimes that affection can blend into the background a bit. That’s why we need movies like Your Sister’s Sister. I certainly can’t relate to the drama at the core of this film, but there’s such a strong semblance of authentic love and affection here, that I just couldn’t help, but to go home and make sure my sister knows how much she means to me.
It’s been a year since Tom’s death. His ex-girlfriend Iris (Emily Blunt) has managed to pull herself together, but Tom’s brother, Jack (Mark Duplass), is still “emotionally
crippled” by the loss. In an effort to help him get back on track, Iris offers up her family’s isolated cabin for some alone time. However, when Jack arrives via his cute little red bicycle, the house is already occupied by Iris’ sister, Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt). A little chitchat here, a little tequila there and the two wind up in bed together. No big deal, right? Perhaps it would have been, had Iris not shown up at the cabin the next morning.
In an industry saturated with grandiose tales, flashy camera movements and big effects, Your Sister’s Sister is the ultimate return to simplicity, and the results are downright wonderful. It only takes the film a matter of minutes to capture your full attention courtesy of a riveting, amusing and rather painful speech from Jack at an event honoring the one-year anniversary of Tom’s death. When one guy at the party feels the need to praise all the best of Tom, Jack takes it upon himself to touch on the other side. No, Jack doesn’t reveal Tom’s mean streak, rather addresses what could be considered minor flaws and while the rest of the group is shocked and somewhat disgusted by his behavior, there’s so much that rings true in his speech and Duplass fuels it with such honest emotion, it’s impossible not to be swayed by the performance. And that’s only the first few minutes of the film.
There’s a rather abrupt tonal shift from the party to Jack’s trek out to the cabin, but Duplass’ balance of congeniality and cynicism makes the transition seamless and something that works wonders yet again when we find Jack in yet another social situation with Hannah. There’s something so right yet so wrong about both people that watching them come together is incredibly awkward yet very appropriate and welcomed at the same time. Blunt’s character’s re-introduction the next morning isn’t as smooth as the other shifts because her connection with Jack isn’t established as well as it could have been during that party scene. Still, Blunt has no trouble getting Iris right back on track and firmly into the mix.
Shelton’s script is notably tight and has few flaws, but all missteps are rendered meaningless thanks to madly sincere performances all-around. Blunt, DeWitt and Duplass don’t only bring the characters on the page to life, but the characters before the events of the movie, too. There’s a sensation that they all really understand these people and, considering the type of material, that goes a long way here. Further building on their grasp on their characters is the chemistry between one another. As previously mentioned, the deep connection between Iris and Jack isn’t as powerful as it could be at the start, but once Iris is at the vacation home, both Blunt and Duplass ooze with affection for one another, making the situation all the more amusing and heartbreaking. Then with Duplass and DeWitt, the duo has no trouble whatsoever going from complete strangers to sharing an intense connection. And lastly, the relationship between DeWitt and Blunt might be the most impressive of all for someone with a sister, like myself. No, my sister and I don’t bare any resemblance to Iris and Hannah whatsoever, but there’s something about their bond that has a universal appeal, instantly making the movie incredibly personal for many.
One of the most impressive elements of Your Sister’s Sister is that the film achieves all this through particularly simple scenes – table conversations. Nearly the entire relationship between Jack and Hannah is established during one chat over a bottle of tequila. You’d think blocks of dialogue after blocks of dialogue in a single location would get rather mundane, but Shelton keeps her camerawork simple and just lets Duplass and DeWitt run with, a tactic that keeps the moment true and gives the actors room to excel. There’s a similar table scene with the trio of leads and even though they generally never move from their seats, the moment has this outrageously potent arc that ups the tension to a level you’d normally experience if one character went to the extreme of pulling a gun on the other.
Not only is this a testament to the cast’s ability, but to Shelton’s writing. Your Sister’s Sister is the type of script an emerging screenwriter should study. The piece as a whole is notably well structured with clear act breaks and scenes with beginnings, middles and ends of their own. Sure, this suggests that Shelton sticks within the confines of the ABCs of screenwriting, but by going the no frills route, she winds up with a film that’s beautifully simple and downright extraordinary thanks to a cast that truly understands what Shelton and their characters want, and then go above and beyond with it.