Published Jun 22, 2012Largely improvised and shot over a period of 12 days at a San Juan Islands cottage off the coast of Washington State, Your Sister's Sister (Lynn Shelton's latest shoestring budget character piece) genuinely feels like a loose, natural glimpse into the lives of people that have known each other for years. There's a thrilling spontaneity that propels early stretches of the film, where the sense of witnessing reality supersedes the familiarity of narrative logic.
It's a testament to the non-invasive eye of Seattle native Lynn Shelton and the intensely scrutinized characterizations performed by the trio of actors that this sense of freedom pervades a film that ostensibly revolves around a rote indie rom-com gimmick.
The set-up, wherein the pseudo-grieving Iris (Emily Blunt) sends her best friend, Jack (Mark Duplass), who incidentally is the brother of her dead ex-lover, to her secluded family cottage to work through his self-loathing and directionless disposition, is in itself quite obvious, denoting escape and serenity as a road to personal reflection. More obvious is his unexpected run-in with Iris's sister, Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), at the cottage, whose recent break-up with long-time girlfriend Pam has left her drinking tequila by herself and embracing the possibility of hetero sex.
But while the set-up of major plot points ultimately frames the improvisation into a potentially transgressive, yet cohesive, story, it's the natural conversation and fully-realized body language and unspoken back story that give this touching and funny testament to finding yourself through others its implicit power.
In fact, the greatest moments aren't those where big secrets are revealed and characters jump back to hashing out plot points, rather it's scenes of unpretentious conversation about gluten- and dairy-free pancakes, or facial reactions to sexual idiosyncrasies or genital grooming preferences.
Each actor has a way of reacting to the other related specifically to the various life events that comprise a relationship and frame of reference. In such, we don't feel manipulated into a moral stance, rather we feel like a part of the action and connections unfolding before our eyes. (Mongrel Media)