They share everything – Your Sister’s Sister review

Your Sister’s Sister – Starring Mark DuplassEmily Blunt, and Rosemarie DeWitt. Directed by Lynn Shelton. Rated M. Originally published July 9, 2012. By Simon Miraudo.

With just a handful of credits to her name, Lynn Shelton has rocketed to the top of my list of the finest working filmmakers. Like Weezer, she could release an avalanche of soul-crushing mediocrity over the next few decades, and I would nonetheless return based solely on the brilliance of her early work. Shelton’s last effort, Humpdaywas the funniest picture of 2009, and it became the pinnacle of a movement lovingly and derisively referred to as mumblecore. Her latest, Your Sister’s Sister, similarly concerns an unconventional love-story between three people, and it’s similarly hilarious. The film is also rather gorgeous to behold. Not only does it solidify her standing ahead of her contemporaries, it gives good cause to take the mumblecore moniker back to Austin and beat it do death with an issue of McSweeneys. Mumblecore implies that this is the work of an amateur; Your Sister’s Sister could only succeed with the sure-hand of consummate professionals.

Shelton’s Humpday star Mark Duplass returns here. He and his brother Jay are perhaps the only directors that come close to matching her easy, warm, and unconventional charm. But Mark Duplass is even better in front of the camera than he is behind it; I fail to think of another actor currently making the rounds in romantic comedies who is more innately watchable or as naturally amusing. He plays Jack, the grieving brother of the late Tom. A year has passed since Tom died, and Jack has been unable to pick up the pieces of his life. His best friend (and Tom’s ex) Iris (Emily Blunt) offers him an opportunity to clear his head: he is to grab his camping gear, catch a ferry to her family’s cabin on a remote island, and unwind in solitude. Jack takes her up on the offer, but he discovers Iris’ lesbian sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) is using the cabin to decompress following the dissolution of her seven-year relationship. Instead of going their separate ways, they agree to be drinking buddies, and the two lonely-hearts wind up in bed. The next morning, Iris turns up with the intention of pledging her love to Jack, and the three dance around one another awkwardly until the sexual revelation (and some others) inevitably come tumbling out.

Humpday concerned the bond between two pals who bring out the worst of their masculine competitiveness in each other. Their inability to back down from a dare almost leads the straight gents to shoot a porno together on a dare. If that movie is about brotherhood, Your Sister’s Sister is about, well, do I actually need to say it? Not just the sisterhood between Iris and Hannah, but also between Iris and Jack; their friendship has reached a level of closeness that makes the prospect of them revealing their true feelings risky and a little bit weird. Blunt and Duplass play off one another expertly, with DeWitt getting a rare opportunity to act as the wildcard who holds all the secrets yet remains totally cavalier.

I was worried for a while that Hannah was getting the short end of the stick; that she was a sexually-flexible obstacle thrown into proceedings to keep Jack and Iris apart. But her arc ends up as fleshed out as the others, and this ultimately morphs into a genuine three-way romance (not in that way). Shelton once again manipulates gender politics in an interesting, understated way that feels fresh even when she’s toying with traditional rom-com tropes. The cast are equally responsible for translating the intricacies and nuances of their characters’ relationships (they are all credited as ‘creative consultants’ on account of the improvised language). Your Sister’s Sister is a very sweet, very human feature that is also very, very funny. Much hay is made out of Mark Duplass’ reaction shots, and that’s just fine by me.


Check out Simon’s other reviews here.

Your Sister’s Sister arrives in Australian cinemas September 6, 2012. 

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