Your Sister’s Sister

A- Romantic comedy

  • Written and directed by Lynn Shelton

Let’s start with the title. Your Sister’s Sister seems like a clumsy way of say your other sister or you. But since two of the three characters that dominate this movie are sisters who have to work out a close but problematic relationship, the title is oddly appropriate.

This picture kept surprising me. The opening scene, involving a group of young adults memorializing a recently-deceased friend,  felt like The Big Chill. But instead of an ensemble piece, the movie quickly turned into a very small-scale romantic sex comedy. I thought it was shallow; then the characters deepened. It felt like formula, and I even guessed what artificial crisis would end the second act, but my guess turned out to be totally wrong..

As it plays out its running time, Your Sister’s Sister keeps getting better–more surprising, more your_sisters_sistercharacter-driven and more realistic. And funnier, because the humor was coming from something real. It starts out as an entertaining trifle and becomes something resembling real life. It’s all the more entertaining because of it.

The two sisters of the title are Iris (Emily Blunt) and Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt). The man in the story is Jack (Mark Duplass). But this isn’t a typical triangle. How could it be? Jack and Iris are platonic best friends and Hannah is a lesbian.

Jack’s having a bad time in life. He’s unemployed, unattached, and his brother has just died. Iris suggests he spend some downtime in her father’s cabin on a nearby island (this is all set in the Seattle area). But when he gets there, he finds Hannah, who’s retreated after breaking up with her girlfriend. They get drunk and, well, things happen.

Iris shows up the next morning, and things get complicated. Like I said, it seems very formulistic initially.

Loose and relaxed, with largely improvised dialog, Your Sister’s Sister makes for a very pleasant time at the movies. Most romantic comedies depend on gimmicks to keep the story going–the characters lie to or misunderstand each other, and thus produce a conflict that must be overcome. A handful of the best–Annie Hall, Woman of the Year–deal instead with the real conflicts that occur in actual life. Your Sister’s Sister starts as the first, but turns into the second as it goes along.

So many movies start promising and deteriorate; it was nice to see one that just kept getting better.

I saw Your Sister’s Sister at the 2012 San Francisco International Film Festival.