‘Your Sister’s Sister’ has improvised charm

Emily Blunt in 'Your Sister's Sister'
Emily Blunt in ‘Your Sister’s Sister’

[rating=3]Starring: Emily Blunt, Mark Durplass, Rosemarie DeWitt
Director(s): Lynn Shelton
Writer(s): Lynn Shelton
Company: Ada Films, IFC Films

Your Sister’s Sister opens with “Jack” (Mark Durplass) is at a celebration of the one year anniversary of the death of his brother, Tom.  One of Tom’s friends is proposing a toast and it’s one that remembers everything about Tom that made him such a wonderful person.

When Tom’s friend finishes speaking, before the glasses can be clinked together, Jack has his own toast to propose.  It isn’t nearly as kind, although he doesn’t attempt to be mean.  He just wants to talk honestly about what kind of person Tom was in reality.

“Iris” (Emily Blunt) is there.  She’s Jack’s best friend and was also at one point, romantically involved with Tom (can we please make things a bit more complicated?) but that ended long before his death.  She watches Jack’s toast go over like the proverbial lead balloon and afterwards confronts him.

He is not dealing well with his brother’s passing.  In fact he isn’t dealing with it at all, merely putting his life on hold.  Iris says the time has come for him to rejoin life, and the way to do this is for him to get out his red bicycle.  He’s to jump on the bike, ride down to the dock where the ferry is, board the ferry and go directly to the cottage owned by Iris’ father.

The cottage is on an island and its best features, aside from no television or internet, are the rustic location and surrounding beauty.  There, Jack can contemplate and ponder the mysteries of life, specifically his life and how to re-start it.

So Jack makes the journey.

Emily Blunt stars in 'Your Sister’s Sister'
Emily Blunt stars in ‘Your Sister’s Sister’

Upon his late-evening arrival, he finds the cottage is occupied and he manages to momentarily frighten the occupant.  Just before he is about to be smacked with an oar, Jack realizes that the woman about to strike him is Iris’ sister Hannah.  After introductions and fear are over, they go inside.  Once there, Hannah insists that Jack stay, there is plenty of room and they can both have the alone time they need.

But as Jack can’t sleep he hears Hannah and goes down to see what she’s doing.  She is drinking and he joins in.  Soon, as the alcohol flows, Hannah is telling Jack that her reason for being at the cottage is that she’s just ended a seven-year relationship, with another woman.  Jack tells Hannah that the other woman was foolish to have let her get away and how beautiful she is.  One drink leads to another and soon, even though she “hasn’t ridden that bicycle in awhile,” the two are off to have sex.

The following morning, as they are beginning to just stir, Iris naturally shows up at the front door.

While Hannah isn’t bothered by this, Jack is desperate to conceal from Iris the fact he’s slept with Hannah.  Unhappily, Hannah goes along with Jack’s plan to conceal what happened from her sister.  However, it will come out and when it does, it merely serves to heighten what was already a bit tense between the women, who in reality are only half-sisters.

There’s a reason why Jack didn’t want Iris to know he’d slept with her sister, and there’s a reason why Iris is so bothered by this fact.  Turns out that Iris and Jack haven’t admitted to anyone else, or even to themselves, that they are madly in love with one another.

Your Sister’s Sister’s story is from writer/director Lynn Shelton and it’s pretty good.  True, it’s almost entirely told in dialogue and that’s not the best way to tell an entire story.  It’s clichéd and predictable, and yet, engaging.  The area surrounding the cottage is as Blunt would say “lovely”, and very pleasing to view.  The actors all deliver strong performances and we see the emotions rather than just hear them in the words.

If it sounds like clichés and predictability wouldn’t warrant a rating of three, normally you’d be correct.  But in this case, the performances of the actors and their strong chemistry overcome what is no longer a limitation but merely a label.

The trio act together as naturally as though this were their 9th season together on a TV drama rather than something that was shot in less than two weeks.  The shortened shooting schedule and the fact most of that wonderful dialogue was improvised makes Your Sister’s Sister well worth the price of admission.

Rated: R
Run Time: 1 hr., 30 mins.

Brian Milinsky

Brian Milinsky has served in the military, been an FM D.J. and an award-winning radio news reporter/anchor/writer/editor. He is presently a screenwriter and currently lives in Los Angeles.

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