Your Sister’s Sister
All films move to a moreorless inevitable conclusion – usually love or death, though possibly both. The question is, how we do we get there, and do we enjoy the ride? This new film from director Lynn Shelton takes us where we want to go, but makes sure it's fun on the way.
The film opens with the only scene where more than three people are involved. A bunch of friends are remembering the death of Tom a year previously, and a guy makes a sweet-natured speech about what a good bloke Tom was. But another voice pipes up. It is Jack (Mark Duplass), who explains that Tom was far from being another Gandhi. He has the right to say this, because Tom was his brother.
He then leaves the room, and is followed into the corridor by Iris (Emily Blunt) his best friend and Tom's ex. She tells him he needs to get away from it all, and sends him to an island off the coast (of Seattle) owned by her father. He obediently cycles off, and arrives at night only to discover that there is already someone there. It turns out to be Hannah (Rosemarie deWitt), Iris's half-sister, who has just split up with her girlfriend of the last 7 years. Drink is consumed, boundaries are blurred and then Iris appears in the morning. And there you have the complex love triangle which has to be unraveled within 90 minutes.
Shelton's previous film was called Humpday (also starring Mark Duplass, himself a film director), about 2 friends who end up trying to make a male porn movie together. Her new film is – in commercial terms – a step forward, with a higher profile cast and a more user friendly narrative. But she still holds true to her values of a low budget movie with acting that seems spontaneous and unforced, and a pretty straightforward plot. Emotion is the purpose of the exercise. And within those terms, the film succeeds very well.
All three characters are likeable, believable and enjoyable to spend time with. DeWitt (who was Anne Hathaway's sister in the brilliant Rachel Getting Married) is excellent as a woman confused about her needs and priorities, while Emily Blunt can simply do no wrong in my eyes; so the question is, does Mark Duplass have what it takes to match up to such high-wattage female genius? Clearly he's not in their league, being somewhat oversized and puppyish, but he's also endearing and human, so we forgive him his lack of sleek manliness.
If I have a criticism of the film, it's that it all cruises along very nicely and evenly, but lacks major dramatic urgency. It's often funny, sometimes moving and occasionally a little tense, but given the subject matter, everyone gets over their traumas with great facility. And I had a problem with a series of scenes where music is used to signify the passing of time, and crucial scenes are left unexplored except in the broadest visual terms.
Apart from that, this is a film that deserves a bigger audience than it will reach, and is well worth a night out.
By Phil Raby
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