An almost hypnotic sense of naturalism draws you into “Your Sister’s Sister,” an intimate comic-drama about three people who find their lives intertwined in sudden and unexpected ways.
Writer-director Lynn Shelton, who made the possibility of gay porn between straight best friends seem logical if not downright inevitable in 2009′s “Humpday,” once again employs her preferred tactic of having her actors collaborate on developing their characters and improvising their dialogue. (The stars get a “creative consultant” credit.) The result is appealingly, believably imperfect. And although the end feels a bit too tidy by comparison — despite a final shot that’s intentionally ambiguous — it also has an emotional impact that will sneak up on you.
That’s thanks to Mark Duplass, who also co-starred in “Humpday,” making an understated final plea that’s sweetly heartbreaking. This is probably his best work yet, his most mature and deeply felt. And he’s been everywhere in the past year or so between this, “Safety Not Guaranteed,” the FX series “The League” and his own directing efforts with his brother, Jay, like “Jeff, Who Lives at Home.”
Here, Duplass stars as Jack, who’s still feeling shattered a year after the death of his brother. Jack’s best friend, Iris (Emily Blunt), suggests that he get away for a while on his own by visiting her family’s remote cabin on an island off the Washington coast. (Shelton shot “Your Sister’s Sister” on the San Juan Islands, and the quiet, jagged beauty of the place adds to the sense of isolation, to the idea that anything could happen between these people.)
When Jack arrives, though, he finds that Iris’ sister, Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), is already there trying to find her own peace. Hannah had escaped to this wild, idyllic setting in hopes of getting over the break-up of a seven-year relationship with her girlfriend. But then she and Jack share a painfully honest, awkward, drunken night which leads to an even weirder morning when Iris shows up unannounced.
Through the highs and lows, confrontations and revelations over a series of days, all three performers play off each other beautifully.
Blunt and DeWitt have such a lovely, easy chemistry — as well as an understandable tension — they truly make you feel as if you’re watching a sisterly bond, full of teasing and secrets and resentments. (And yes, in case you’re wondering, the film does explain why Iris has a British accent and Hannah does not.) Shelton reveals their connection through long takes as the two women lie awake in bed at night, whispering their most personal thoughts the way they probably did as girls.
But then DeWitt shares a totally different energy with Duplass. She’s tough at first, a bit guarded, but then flashes a quick, dry wit as the two polish off a bottle of tequila in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere. She makes the varied, complicated sides of her character equally compelling.
Even when things get a little crazy and maybe even too soapy, “Your Sister’s Sister” always feels like it’s rooted in a tangible reality, a place of unpredictability and abiding humanity.
“Your Sister’s Sister,” an IFC Films release, is rated R for language and some sexual content. Running time: 90 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.
Motion Picture Association of America rating definitions:
G — General audiences. All ages admitted.
PG — Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
PG-13 — Special parental guidance strongly suggested for children under 13. Some material may be inappropriate for young children.
R — Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
NC-17 — No one under 17 admitted.
More Related Stories
- Nancy Jo Sales on L.A. celeb robbers: "The Bling Ring kids were depressed"
- “Arrested Development,” hurry up and get here so you can stop being so annoying
- Must-do's: What we like this week
- Josh Ritter makes his "Blood on the Tracks"
- I don't hate millennials anymore!
- What's 2013's "Gone Girl"? Here are this summer's best reads
- Fox executive behind "Does Someone Have to Go?" leaving the network
- Hillary Clinton memoir shows up on Amazon
- A brief history of Jennifer Weiner's literary fights
- First look: Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard shine in "The Immigrant”
- No women allowed: Summer music festivals are dudefests, again
- Vivica A. Fox tapes anti-gun PSA in front of poster for her movie
- This is what Guy Fieri looks like as a balloon
- Mariah Carey's rambling, cursing, dress-popping "Good Morning America" concert
- Fox's new reality TV show threatens regular people with unemployment
- Amanda Bynes arrested after hurling bong from window
- Steamy lesbian-sex movie has Cannes abuzz
- Stop what you're doing and go watch "Borgen"
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
- New York chef serves up eight-course meal around "Arrested Development" jokes
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11