Dir. Lynn Shelton, US, 2011, 91 mins
Cast: Emily Blunt, Mark Duplass, Rosemarie DeWitt
Review by Maria Sell
Mark Duplass’ and Emily Blunt’s stars are certainly on the rise with both having two projects simultaneously out on release. Aside from co-starring in Lynn Shelton’s Your Sister’s Sister, Duplass co-directed (with his brother Jay) Jeff, Who Lives at Home, while Blunt currently stars in The Five-Year Engagement (coincidentally Jason Segel features in both).
In this follow up to Shelton’s acclaimed Humpday, Duplass plays Jack, who one year after losing his brother, is floating in emotional limbo and consequently takes up his friend Iris’ (Blunt) offer to stay on his own at her family’s house on a remote island. However, upon arriving he discovers that Iris’ sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) had the same idea (grieving the end of her relationship) and after an alcohol-fuelled evening to break the ice the two spend the night together. The next day Iris shows up unannounced and sets the ball rolling for an emotionally twisted tale that reveals the characters’ strengths as well as insecurities.
This comedy drama stands out for its impressive cinematography and beautiful story line that unfolds naturally onscreen and features some genuine, subtle performances by its three leads. Undoubtedly this can be attributed to the (mainly) improvised dialogue, which allowed the actors to coax some realistic reactions from their fellow cast members. A scene when DeWitt’s Hannah tells an embarrassing story about Iris’ past springs to mind and Blunt’s reaction betrays this to be an unrehearsed scene.
Shelton excels in portraying the tense atmosphere that is scattered with comedic moments by Jack’s desperate attempts to keep the night he has spent with Iris under wraps. But when the truth finally comes out the relationships between the sisters as well as Jack and Iris unravel, revealing their emotional vulnerability. Yet, Shelton succeeds in gently poking fun at the characters’ predicaments without patronising them. The kind of comedic moments that consequently arise aren’t as a result of jokes as such, but rather they are character and situation based. And while principal photography for this low budget film lasted a mere 10 days, it doesn’t feel rushed. The good chemistry between Blunt, Duplass and DeWitt could be attributed to the reportedly “camp-like” living situation the actors found themselves in during the preparations for the shoot.
The real downside of Your Sister’s Sister is its soppy ending. While the story line and reactions are plausible up until the finale, Shelton seems unable to resist tying up any loose ends but despite this weak ending, the overall tone of the film and some excellent performances by its cast make for enjoyable viewing.