Hey folks, Harry here... Dive - our man in Glasgow, just sent in his review of YOUR SISTER'S SISTER which sounds fantastic. If your film is playing at GLASGOW - be sure to have the festival reach out to DIVE so he surfaces for your flick. Now give it a read...
This year Lynn Shelton’s Your Sister’s Sister opened the Glasgow Film Festival. It was just by chance that I was able to get in and see this film during a press screening the day before. I am unfamiliar with her previous work (Humpday) so I really didn’t know what to expect with this particular film. I did, however, read a few reviews with Shelton, which provided a little insight to how the story might unfold. She is known for being a director who likes to play around with stylized improvisation. What I mean is she likes to immerse herself with her actors and talk with them as much as possible before putting them in front of her camera. Once there she aims to capture a scene in the first take because, as she says, it makes conversation and response seem much more natural. And with funny people like Mark Duplass, Emily Blunt and Rosemary DeWitt it comes across brilliant, seamlessly changing from comical to dramatic and back again.
The movie begins with shots focused on a variety of 4x6 photographs. Some are spread out on a coffee table others are being passed from the hands of friends. It soon becomes clear the person in these photographs is not in the room. These people have gathered together to celebrate the life of their friend, Tom, who passed away a year ago to the day. After a heartfelt speech from one of Tom’s friends, Jack (Mark Duplass) – Tom’s brother – wishes to say a few words as well and proceeds to make a complete ass of himself. It’s clear Jack hasn’t taken the loss of his brother very well so his best friend and Tom’s ex-girlfriend Iris (Emily Blunt) tells Jack to head out to her father’s cabin to get some fresh air and clear his head. It just so happens Iris’s sister Hannah (Rosemary DeWitt) has the same plan following a breakup with her girlfriend of seven years.
There’s something truly great – cathartic even – about a film that explores ideas of identity, death, friends and what’s important in life. Lynn Shelton cleverly explores these ideas, among others, as we follow the choices made by three individuals. To be honest, there isn’t anything that particularly stands out about each person. Jack is depressed but not so much that he’s becoming an alcoholic. He drinks but does so with a partner rather than alone. Iris is a photographer who’s committed to her work but not so much so that she can’t get away. And then there’s Hannah, the vegan lesbian older sister who just wants a few days to lament about her failed love life. But it’s when these three are together that their stories are made interesting.
Jack stumbles upon Hannah when he arrives at the cabin. These two have never met before so it isn’t clear to either who the other one is though Iris has told each a great deal about the other person. After being caught peeping in on Hannah the to become acquainted and accept the idea their solo stay has now become a shared event. They bond over a bottle of tequila and at the end of the night Jack manages to convince Hannah to get into bed with him. After a few witticisms regarding the use of Saran wrap in place of a condom Jack doles out fifteen seconds of lovin’ before thanking his partner and passing out. This single act propels the rest of the film’s narrative.
By now it becomes clear Iris and Jack are in love with one another but are afraid of letting the other know it so sleeping with her sister certainly doesn’t help this predicament; an oath of silence about the night’s festivities is made between Jack and Hannah. These are decent people who simply caved to sexual desires. If it had been any other guy or any other girl this could easily be overlooked but it was the older sister and the best friend.
The underlying question throughout this story is, quite simply: So who’s to blame? Is it Jack, who only slept with Hannah because he couldn’t sleep with Iris? Is it Hannah for going after the guy her sister is obviously in love with but never willing to admit? Or is it Iris for keeping her feelings to herself so no one else knew what she was thinking? Shelton gives the audience ample time to ponder these questions during the telling of this tale. Towards the end there is a great, extended montage of the three figuring out how to move forward after this terrible secret is revealed. Cutting back and forth between the sisters trying to reconnect and Jack figuring out how to stop feeling sorry for himself the audience is never made to feel a particular way. And by doing this the audience can reflect on their own mistakes and realize sometimes things don’t happen the way they’re imagined but getting through them is more important than dwelling on them or apologizing for them.
This is a movie for anyone who has put off dealing with personal problems. There is no denying the fact it is far easier to help someone else through a tough time than fact a problem in your own life. Why is that? Well, it’s because to deal with our own problem is to admit we have one. I know, I know this is beginning to sound like an after-school special but I absolutely believe it to be true. Your Sister’s Sister not only allows you to immerse yourself in these characters problems but it also gives plenty of starting points to make your own life better. It’s one thing to create a movie that invites you into its world it’s a wholly different thing when that story sneaks in a life lesson you didn’t expect to learn.