Toronto Review: Lynn Shelton's Amusing Comedy 'Your Sister's Sister'
by Alex Billington
September 16, 2011
In the indie world, films often rely on character dynamic alone to tell a good story, and it doesn't always work. But with Lynn Shelton's Your Sister's Sister, her follow-up to mumblecore comedy Humpday, the chemistry and performances are so damn good it makes the film even better. Starring Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt as sisters, and Mark Duplass as the one man in the mix, the film explores a unique relationship dynamic, a sort of unconventional mixup of love and sex that provides plenty of humor, but also has heart. It's sweet, amusing, and most importantly enjoyable to watch, one of my late fest favorites.
At the start we're introduced to Iris (Blunt), a smart, British ex-girlfriend of the deceased brother of Jack (Duplass), who's had a "shitty year" since his brother's death. The two are great platonic friends and Iris tells him that he needs to visit her father's cabin on an island, set in the chilly Northwest, to get his life back on track. When he arrives he finds Iris' sister Hannah (DeWitt) is already there, trying to collect herself after a recent break-up. The two end up drinking late into the night, things get a little frisky and they end up in bed. The next morning when Iris shows up is obviously when things really get going. It's certainly a unique setup, but I love how refreshingly modern this is and not cliche when it comes to relationships.
Your Sister's Sister works so well primarily because the chemistry between all three of these people is amazing, and I truly mean amazing, some of the best out of any film in Toronto this year. Duplass, who is a filmmaker and an actor already (in The Puffy Chair, Humpday, Greenberg), completely falls into his role, delivering some of the best lines. Every moment of interaction between Duplass and Blunt, and Duplass and DeWitt, is natural and yet amusing, but not in a way that makes any of the characters feel manufactured. It's that genuineness that makes every beat of this, and every story twist and development, work so well. Of course that makes sense, but there's a bit of a mumblecore sensibility within it that helps bring out these performances and make them stand out among all the films I've seen.
Beyond that, it's just a charming, contemporary and progressive story. We've all seen the infidelity comedies and friends with benefits comedies, but this one works with a relationship dynamic (it goes to some very interesting places) that I have never seen before. It's refreshing to find this kind of comedy amidst so many other cliched Hollywood stories. My only criticism would be that the progression of time is a bit confusing (regarding how many days they're at the cabin and what's happening), but it's briefly explained at one point, and is never an issue that gets in the way. Besides that, the film ends on a perfect note, wrapping up this delightful indie dramedy neatly and leaving a lasting memory on all those who see it.
Alex's Toronto Rating: 8.5 out of 10