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Your Sister’s Sister

by Kevin Taft
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Friday Jun 15, 2012
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The simplest of films in plot and location, Lynne Shelton’s "Your Sister’s Sister" is an insightful and heartfelt look at broken people and how they mend themselves. Her follow-up to the hilariously perceptive "Humpday," Shelton focuses her talents on a directionless thirty-something man named Jack (Mark Duplass) whose brother has just died and the resulting emotional stress is causing him to shatter. Worried for him, his close friend and brother’s ex Iris (Emily Blunt) tells him to go to her family’s remote New England island cabin for a long weekend in order to straighten out his head. Reluctant at first, he heads off to the retreat only to find Iris’ sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) has already set up house, hoping to heal wounds of her own.

The two clash at first, but quickly warm up to each other. Over tequila shots on the first night at the cabin, the two bond over their mutual frustrations. While Jack is still mourning his brother and stunted in life as a result, Hannah has just broken up with her girlfriend and is in a tailspin as to how to move forward. As drinks get poured, the two find themselves having awkward and brief sex that leads to a myriad of complications as the weekend continues. Especially when Iris shows up for a visit.

For long stretches, the audience feels like they are just eavesdropping on regular people having seemingly mundane, but nevertheless interesting conversations.

Shelton allows the actors to improvise and creatively explore their key dialogue points lending the film that hyper-natural feeling that she does best. For long stretches, the audience feels like they are just eavesdropping on regular people having seemingly mundane, but nevertheless interesting, conversations. It’s like being at a gathering of strangers and listening to them talk about their views on their mutual life experiences. Duplass, DeWitt, and Blunt all excel - never allowing a false note to seep into their characters. There is a comfort between Hannah and Iris, and alternately Iris and Jack, that allows the roles to feel relatable. It also allows the conflict that rises to be an emotional stab in the chest.

Shot in a more stoic way then her earlier effort, this feels like a mature studio film with indie cred - which is a good thing. Rather than the shifty movement of constantly using a hand-held camera, she lets the actors move and breathe into their characters and the camera is there simply to observe.

Refreshingly candid and without easy solutions, "Your Sister’s Sister" is a lovely little film; while it doesn’t exactly break new ground, it features a cast and crew who are at the height of their craft.

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to ’Star Wars’ and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg. He can be seen in the flesh on the weekly PBS movie review series "Just Seen It."

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