This review was originally published on January 24, 2012…
Humpday would be a hard act to follow. That film was full of deep belly laughs, honest relationships, and convincing improv, and I didn’t know if writer/director Lynn Shelton could pull off such charm again. With Your Sister’s Sister, Shelton has utilized a more conventional plot line (boy sleeps with best friend’s sister), with a more scripted approach, but manages to pull off the same level of character development with equal parts heartbreak and wit that made Humpday such a standout among the hundreds of other quirky indie films.
Part of her successful exploration of these characters comes, of course, from the immense talent on display here. Mark Duplass, as always, shines, displaying flirtatious insecurities that kind of, sort of, made me melt. In Your Sister’s Sister he plays Jack, a man who struggles to deal with the loss of his brother. His best friend, Iris (Emily Blunt), offers her island childhood home as a refuge, but when he arrives at the woodsy cabin, expecting some soul-searching, he finds Iris’s sister, Hannah (Rosemary DeWitt). Hannah’s gay, but the two somehow manage to sleep with each other (in one of the best – read: funniest – sex scenes I have seen in a long time). The next morning, Iris shows up – surprise! – and things get uncomfortable very fast.
Like I said, conventional plot. But, with the exception of a typical music montage featuring the three characters forlornly staring at bodies of water, kicking their defective bikes, and healing emotional wounds, Your Sister’s Sister moves in directions you may not expect. And even if you manage to predict every move Shelton will make, there is still joy in watching these characters interact. The humor is realistic and constant, like your funniest, smartest friend. Despite their flaws, you consistently hope for the best for each of these people, because you know them. Or, at least, you wish you did.
Shelton understands her characters in this film, and she creates a beautiful relationship between sisters that she, unconventionally, privileges over any romantic interests. It’s unusual to see sisters portrayed as loving and supportive, and it’s even more unusual to see that relationship at the center of a film. Iris, Hannah, and Jack seek to create and maintain family, and, frankly, their efforts are inspirational. Is midnight too late to call my sister?