Your Sister's Sister

Your Sister's Sister

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Intimate close-ups, intimate conversations, intimate locations where everything seems to be about the moment can sometimes render us unable to see the wood for the trees. This intense comedy drama from Lynn Shelton uses improvisational techniques to create a sense of closeness and immediacy that obscures life-changing decisions and major shifts in thinking that change its characters before our eyes.

Mark Duplass is Jack, a hapless, hopeless man who has drifted through life since the death of his brother a year previously. His childish acting out is in danger of losing him his few remaining friends, so best friend Iris (Emily Blunt) - who just happens to have dated his brother - suggests that he go to her father's remote island home to get some much needed alone time. The house is supposed to be empty but, on arrival, he finds Iris' sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) there. She's just ended a long term relationship and is also struggling to get her bearings. They talk. They drink. They make unwise decisions. When Iris arrives unexpectedly the next morning, the situation rapidly descends into farce.


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The trick to making comedy like this work is not to rely on the farce itself to generate interest, and here Shelton is impressive; she has guided her actors through a process that makes us care about them and feel the emotional impact of their interactions as if they were our own friends. Mark may sometimes be a buffoon but he's also a human being and the bond between the sisters is convincingly powerful. This doesn't stop parts of the story from feeling contrived, some of the emotional transitions the characters make just a bit too convenient, but it does give it a depth that helps it through these difficult patches. The result, whilst not entirely convincing, does manage to be moving.

That said, what you get out of Your Sister's Sister is likely to depend quite a bit on the audience you see it with. Dependent as it is on the rapport between the onscreen characters, it requires the viewer to become a part of that. Wider audience engagement will add to the atmosphere and make it lots of fun; it could also work as a party film. Watched alone or with a silent audience, it may not hit home at all.

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The film was shot in under two weeks and in places it really shows. The quality of the cinematography is patchy, with some scenes looking flat and unnatural. The up side of this is that there's a freshness to the performances that boosts the immersive aspect of the story. Overall, Your Sister's Sister is far from flawless but if you succeed in engaging with it then you'll find it both entertaining and observationally satisfying.

Reviewed on: 17 Feb 2012
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A tightly focused comedy drama exploring the bonds between siblings, best friends and lovers.
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Director: Lynn Shelton

Writer: Lynn Shelton

Starring: Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mark Duplass

Year: 2011

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: US


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