Glasgow Film Festival 2012: ‘Your Sister’s Sister’ is an absorbing, charming character piece from ‘Humpday’ director

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Your Sister’s Sister
Written and directed by Lynn Shelton
USA, 2011

Lynn Shelton’s follow-up to her “mumblecore” hit Humpday retains frequent collaborator Mark Duplass and a focus on the dynamic between a small group of people, the trio of Your Sister’s Sister being Iris (Emily Blunt), Jack (Duplass), and Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt). Humpday’s character exploration was the heart of a quite high concept premise: two straight male friends decide to make a porn film together for an art project, testing their boundaries. Your Sister’s Sister’s storyline is not so easily definable, but does eventually reveal some similarly extravagant, outlandish developments. A thankful avoidance of any sitcom-like tendencies is achieved through not relying on the farcical narrative developments themselves, the film being bolstered by grounded, engaging characters that are very enjoyable to spend time with.

Duplass’ Jack is still having trouble recovering from his brother’s death a year after the event. Iris, his best friend and a former girlfriend of his brother, offers him the opportunity to spend some time alone at her family’s secluded cabin to attempt to clear his head. Upon arriving, he discovers Iris’ sister Hannah is actually there to clear her own head following her recent separation from a long-time partner. Though the two have never actually met before, they commiserate over heavy alcohol consumption that eventually leads to a brief bout of regretted lovemaking. The two find themselves in a predicament the next morning when Iris turns up unannounced for a brief stay, attempting to conceal their tryst to prevent relationships from potentially souring and feelings getting hurt; this proves especially troublesome as various desires and longings are slowly revealed regarding each character.

Your Sister’s Sister utilises a part-scripted and part-improvised approach, resulting in naturalistic dialogue that balances genuine hilarity with sincere emotion, skilfully communicated by a trio of highly effective actors. Duplass successfully balances masked insecurities with outer frivolity, and a luminous Blunt is wonderful as the charming, spirited Iris. Their interactions in scenes alone together have an especially playful and tender brand of loveliness that doesn’t feel manufactured. DeWitt has perhaps the most complex role; very loving but also very different from her sister, she deftly alternates between amusing abrasiveness, graceful introspection and reckless immaturity.

The film loses its footing in its final act, in which certain revelations provoke disbanding and eventual reconciliation that doesn’t necessarily feel as authentic as most of what has come before it. Additionally, Shelton seems a bit lost as to what to do with Jack in this final stretch, having him wander off out of the main setting to mope around in a montage scored by bland acoustic guitar. There is, however, still some charm to be found in the conclusion, and the film’s minor failings can be forgiven thanks to its absorbing, well-embodied and honest feeling characters. Your Sister’s Sister is a frequently hilarious, warm comedy with some sober dramatic exploration of mostly equal potency.

Josh Slater-Williams

Your Sister’s Sister was the opening gala film of the main Glasgow Film Festival, with director Lynn Shelton in attendance.

Visit the official website of the Glasgow Film Festival.

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