Your Sister’s Sister B
A “small” movie with a “big” heart, Lynn Shelton’s “Your Sister’s Sister” is a satisfying follow-up to her “Humpday,” which was a critical success but never found the appreciative audiences it deserved.
By now it’s clear that as writer and director Shelton is interested in examining social relationships that seem conventional and normative on the surface—siblings or best friends–but a closer look reveals how different and special they are to their participants.
Shelton’s work is devoted to pushing characters and interactions to the limit, to a point of crisis and even deviance, so that their real natures, anxieties, wishes and desires are contested and revealed.
In “Humpday,” she focused on the friendship between two straight males, who are willing to experiment with the nature of their bond and take it further to a sexual level by making a gay porn.
Less gimmicky and more mature, “Your Sister’s Sister” centers on a triangle composed of two femmes and one male, winningly played by Emily Blunt, Rosemarie Dewitt, and Mark Duplass (better known as a director of Mumblecore indies).
The high-caliber of the cast should elevate the visibility of “My Sister’s Sister,” which had premiered last year at the Toronto Film Fest and is now released by IFC.
Duplass plays Jack, a young guy depressed by the death of his brother Tom and showing volatile emotional behaviour and bursts of temper, one of which occurs at a memorial party for his brother. As a change of pace, he decides to accept an invitation from his best friend Iris (Emily Blunt), who is Tom’s former girl, for a quiet week at her family’s island so that he can reflect on his life and decides on his future.
What she doesn’t tell him is that there will be another resident, Iris’ older sister, Hannah (Dewitt). After an awkward, if not rough start, the two begin to relax—booze (shots of Tequilla here) always helps in such occasions–Hannah confesses to the attentive Jack that she had just broken up with her longtime girlfriend, Pam.
The liquor flows and so does the tete-a-tete conversation, which is fluent, naturalistic and in moments even feels improvised. One thing leads to another, and after flattering the sexually insecure Hannah, the two find themselves in bed.
The brief sex scene doesn’t feel true, beginning with the lengthy look for a condom and then interruption by Iris, but Shelton makes her point–under the right circumstances, a lesbian will sleep with a man–and the narrative moves on.
Jack asks Hannah not to tell Iris of their sudden nocturnal attraction, and she reluctantly agrees. We soon find out what we had suspected all along, that Jack and Iris are more attracted to and involved with each other than they are willing to acknowledge.
Both dramatically and artistically, “Your Sister’s Sister” represents a step in the right direction for Shelton, who demonstrates here greater maturity and more nuanced subtlety than in “Humpday” in dissecting the complex relationships among her central trio. Bewarned: The film is chatty, and some may find it verbose.
Revelatory without ever being judgmental, Shelton depicts three flawed individuals who are defined by the kinds of “ordinary” anxieties that will sound familiar to most viewers in their twenties and thirties.
As director, Shelton elicits three great performances. Blunt and DeWitt are believable as sisters (though DeWitt is a last moment replacement). But the film belong to Duplass, who excels as an endearing goof as well as a sensitive and serious man in a situation of grief and crisis.
It’s therefore too bad that the film’s last reel is too pat and neat for the complex and ambiguous situations that so credibly define the first two reels. (In some ways, “Humpday” suffered from a similar problem).
Produced by Steven Schardt.
Executive producers, Vallego Gantner, Mark Duplass, Jennifer Roth, Lynn Shelton.
Co-producers, Mel Eslyn, Megan Griffiths.
Co-executive producers, Dave Nakauyama, Lance Rosen.
Directed, written by Lynn Shelton.
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