Familial feelings will pull you right in

Besides being relatable and brilliantly engaging, Your Sister’s Sister is a tribute to a foolproof script and the integrity of professional acting. The plot doesn’t depend on any device you couldn’t build yourself, or on manoeuvres you couldn’t perform on a stage. In fact, I hope someone rewrites this film for the stage because it contains enough raw emotion, fun and embarrassment to achieve the perfect blend of comedy, anguish and a new perspective.

Shelton’s fourth film behind the camera, Humpday (2009), starred Duplass, who reappears here as the male lead, Jack, a 30-something slacker. He’s down-to-earth but emotionally unstable and still hurting from his brother’s recent tragic death. Iris (Blunt) shares his loss as she was Jack’s brother’s girlfriend. In an attempt to help, Iris persuades Jack to go and find himself, alone, in her family cabin on an island in the Pacific Northwest.

To his surprise, the cabin is not empty when Jack arrives, and thus he meets Iris’s alluring sister Hannah (DeWitt, The Watch), who is recently single and, to Jack’s disappointment, a lesbian. Lonely and confused, the two have more in common than they could’ve hoped. Soon they’re bonding famously over a bottle of tequila, and the consequent excitement blurs Hannah’s sexual orientation. Exeunt Hannah and Jack.

What was intended as a forgettable roll in the hay acquires much deeper ramifications when Iris suddenly drops by the next morning. And it only gets worse when one character’s decidedly unethical move and another’s secret feelings are dramatically revealed. Amazing how watching three likeable people sipping wine in a cabin can feel like watching a train crash. Don’t even get me started on the killer ending.

I suppose it’s mostly due to the believability of the central characters. The familiar maxim that a character has to undergo a development in order to be interesting is more than observed here, thanks to a creative, almost inspired use of classic themes and contemporary issues. The film’s excellent use of improvisation further lends an honesty that drives the drama home in a refreshing and lucid way.

Your Sister’s Sister (4)

Dir: Lynn Shelton; US drama/comedy, 2011, 70 mins; Emily Blunt, Rosemary DeWitt, Mark Duplass
Premiered November 1
Playing nationwide