Your Sister’s Sister

Year: 2011
Production Co: Ada Films
Director: Lynne Shelton
Writer: Lynne Shelton
Cast: Emily Blunt, Mark Duplass, Rosemarie DeWitt

You wouldn't think the worlds of barely-scripted mumblecore drama and that of Woody Allen would intersect, but this slight, talky dramedy from director Lynn Shelton slowly develops into – and turns on – a comedy of errors love triangle the likes of which we usually see in Allen's films.

I watched it because I'm a big fan of Rosemarie DeWitt, but I was prepared for it to rub me the wrong way. Like her contemporary Melanie Lynskey, who I like just as much, one of DeWitt's natural homes is in that indie romantic drama subgenre that irritates the hell out me (Digging For Fire, Drinking Buddies).

But while Shelton is synonymous with the mumblecore movement she's as interested here in an actual premise as realistic dialogue and performances.

Mark Duplass (another stalwart of this kind of thing) is Jack, a bit disconnected from the world after the death of his brother. We learn as much in the opening scene when a group of family and friends have gathered to commemorate the anniversary of the death. While they all talk about Jack's brother in glowing terms, Jack takes the opportunity to trash his brother, lobbing a very uncomfortable bomb into the middle of the gathering.

Jack's friend and his brother's former girlfriend Iris (Emily Blunt) tells him he needs a break from life. She encourages/orders him to take a cycling holiday to her father's remote cabin in a wintry, forested township up north.

But when Jack arrives, he's an interloper. Iris' sister Hannah (DeWitt) is already there for her own holiday without telling anyone, trying to recalibrate her shattered emotional state after a breakup with her own long time girlfriend.

The pair gradually get over their misgivings about having to share the house, staying up late to drink before falling into bed, as much on a seeming dare as on sexual attraction.

The next day Iris unexpectedly shows up, over the moon at the prospect of spending a few days with two of her favourite people, but Jack is crestfallen, asking Hannah to keep their drunken night secret.

But everyone is harbouring something they don't want anyone else to know. For Iris, it's the fact that she's been in love with Jack for ages. For Jack, it's the fact that he slept with his best friend's sister. And for Hannah, it's the fact that she broke up with her long time partner over their disagreement about having a baby.

Hannah has been considering a sperm donor for awhile, and when Jack finds the condom they used full of very purposeful holes he's angry at Hannah, supposedly because she tricked him into trying to make her pregnant but really – as we learn later when things turn confessional – because he slept with her when he really wants Iris. Iris is angry with them both for sleeping together, and Hannah is just miserable that she's hurt everyone in her quest.

It's all sorted out very softly and quietly with people sitting in kitchens drinking coffee in woollen jumpers or laying together in warm beds. There's no eleventh hour dash through an airport wearing a wedding dress or similar Hollywood tropes, it's all done as naturalistically as the rest of the movie.

But while it's ultimately fairly middling, skirting the edge of mumblecore, the leads have enough charisma to make you care and keep watching, and the dialogue doesn't appear to be the extreme improv style characteristic of the movement.

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