This low-budget indie is a gem of a movie. Snarky, intelligent, moving dialogue reigns free in Your Sister’s Sister, giving the actors much to work with and play off each other. The movie’s first scene is at a party that takes place on the anniversary of a death, where we witness Jack (Mark Duplass) deliver a cringe worthy toast that gets derailed and ends up being not a tribute to but a condemnation of his dead brother. Jack has had a bad year since his brother died, and alcohol and public speaking do not mix. His best friend Iris – who also happens to be the dead brother’s ex-girlfriend (Emily Blunt) – takes him aside to humorously, but firmly, employ him to get it together. Iris has fared far better after the brother’s death – they had in fact broken up prior to his passing.
Iris’ brilliant idea is to loan Jack the family lake house, to which he must take a ferry and ride a bike – some alone time, with room to think, might heal some wounds. Iris will not be joining him, as that would defeat the whole purpose. But he isn’t the only one with wounds, apparently. When he arrives, he observes Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) tooling around the kitchen not fully dressed. As she is not expecting him nor he her, nor have they met, this leads to some mayhem/accusations of peeping. The physicality of that scene on the porch is well done. Hannah is Iris’ sister, and she has fled to the lake house to lick her wounds after breaking up with her female partner of seven years.
While both Hannah and Jack think they’ll have some alone time, they really gain a drinking buddy that first night, which of course leads to another type of “buddy” situation. How awkward for them that Iris shows up the next morning, having had a change of heart in more ways than one. Jack pleads with the tough Hannah to keep the details of their first night a secret from Iris, a task that is harder than it needs to be, but offers some comedy and eventual emotion. Jack is a doofus with a big heart and I challenge anyone to not want to root for him. Hannah is both tough and lacks self-esteem. Iris is vulnerable but knows what she wants and is very loyal to her sister and friend, forgiving some things others might not. Blunt and DeWitt really nail the sisterly bond, and Duplass is perfect as the guy who wants to be in the middle of that.
The movie does not give a lot of back story for these characters, but if you’re paying attention, little nuggets are revealed, such as why the heck one sister has an American accent and the other (Blunt) has a British one. Apparently they are half sisters who are ten years apart and Iris obviously spent her formative years in England. The audience gets the point that dear old dad owns the lake house, but we don’t get a sense as to where it is – somewhere off the coast of the Pacific Northwest. It’s fall, it’s chilly, and the colors are splendid. If you’re doing some soul-searching, this would be the perfect setting. Since we don’t have a lot of back story to worry about, the movie can really focus on the characters’ relationships in the here and now. We don’t know much about the dead brother/ex-boyfriend, or the partner Hannah has finally escaped.
Your Sister’s Sister has the feel of a weekend shoot the actors embarked upon, complete with some improvisation. That style of acting/dialogue allows for some particularly natural rhythms, and they all just click. The audience feels the intimacy they share, and cringe and laugh along with them. There is much to not give away about this movie, though the plot line is not complicated, but in order to experience it the way the director seems to have intended, I will not give away too much – everyone who watches it should experience it as a journey along with the actors. The ending will cause groans or chuckles, depending on your tolerance for abrupt/surprise endings, but it wasn’t the real ending to me. The trio had already decided how they stood in their relationships to one another, regardless of a certain outcome.