An antithesis to the stereotypical Hollywood romantic comedy, Your Sister’s Sister, directed by Lynn Shelton, presents itself as a rarity in the film industry as a true comedy – something English majors such as myself truly appreciate. Your Sister’s Sister delves into human relationships on a deeper, more satisfying level, and approaches both filmmaking and film itself in a more unconventional way by embracing the imperfect, the unresolved, and the truly unsettling beast that is life.
Jack (Mark Duplass) needs a serious break from life. After a small outburst at a one-year memorial service in honor of his deceased brother, Jack’s best friend Iris (Emily Blunt) encourages Jack to take a sabbatical of sorts at her father’s cabin. Begrudgingly, Jack agrees, and takes the day-long bike ride to the backwoods of the Pacific Northwest, hoping to regain some of his appreciation for life. To his surprise, Iris’ sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) is also at the cabin, attempting to do much of the same inner reflection that Jack intended. A bottle of tequila between them spurs an awkward sexual encounter (did I fail to mention that Hannah is gay?), and an even more awkward morning after, when Iris unexpectedly shows up to stay. The threesome’s relationships are tested as they face unusual circumstances, deceit, and hurt in the midst of the strangest love triangle imaginable.
What was so enjoyable about this movie was the unconventionality of it all. From the acting and the story to the conception and creation of this film, everything stands out in distinct difference from the typical cookie cutter-style comedies of today. The characters themselves don’t lend themselves to as much of the story as they perhaps could have; however, this movie takes more from the circumstances and the decisions made by these characters, rather than the characters themselves.
The acting in this film didn’t surprise me until I learned that most of the lines were improvised. Improvisation is not something that every actor (even the most seasoned of actors) are necessarily fabulous at, nor equipped to handle. However, the cast really rolled with it, and used the fluidity of the improvisation to really develop more sincere character angles.
Emily Blunt is an absolute delight, as always. Her charm is impossible to hate, and she really plays her part in this movie with a certain sensitivity. Rosemarie DeWitt is a sound choice as the tree-hugging, vegan pancake-making, adverse to butter, secret-keeping lesbian. Her somewhat deadpan demeanor leads to some oddly hilarious scenes in the movie. Obviously, Mark Duplass takes the character of Jack and runs with it – his impeccable skills for improvising really shine through in this film role. Still, I would love to see him in something other than the role as this kind of stagnant, putzy bum. Once you start to feel too comfortable in a role, it’s probably about time to start switching things up to keep from feeling stale.
The directorial choices of this movie were unusual, but they worked. There were several establishing landscape scenes combined with handheld camera work, that surprisingly meshed very well together. Much of the conversations amongst the characters used some fairly interesting camerawork, but it wasn’t as distracting as you might think it would be. Instead, it accentuated the ensuing conversations, and really gave a physical presence to the inner emotions of the characters.
Because of the nature of the movie, there’s not a large amount more I can say without giving away a good chunk of the plot; however, I do have to say that the movie grows on you. Its originality and definitive separation from the formulaic Hollywood approach gives it a more European feel – an aesthetic that draws on the actual occurrences of real people, rather than a predictable pattern with little to no genuine emotion.
If you prefer to know the outcome of the movie you are watching before you watch it, this movie is definitely not for you. But, if you are looking for a film that juxtaposes comedy and drama in a true comedic form, one that pertains relevance to a less than fairy tale ending, you will enjoy the journey of self-discovery, acceptance, redemption, and overcoming that is presented in this movie.
Your Sister’s Sister – 8/10