In her last feature, Humpday, Lynn Shelton examined male sexuality and friendship in a very mumblecore way (though it was much more polished that a true mumble). In this film, Your Sister's Sister, she comes back to look at relationships between brothers, sisters and friends and how sexuality might be a silly cultural construct that ignores an emotional human element. Both films suffer from sometimes silly writing decisions, but Shelton is clearly a great director of actors and creates interesting relationships and moments on screen.
At a memorial service for his dead brother, Jack (Mark Duplass), loses his temper at some of the mourners. His best friend and his brother's widow (or was she a girlfriend?), Iris (Emily Blunt), tells him to go to her father's vacation home in the wilderness to cool off for a few weeks. He rides his bike out the place (it's Seattle, so that's normal) and when he gets there he discovers Iris' half-sister, Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), is already there, getting over the pain of her long-term lesbian relationship that she just ended. They're awkward at first, but settle in to drinking and talking about their respective issues.
At the end of that long night, they decide to fuck, even though Hannah is gay and Jack is really in love with Iris. The next morning, Iris comes to visit Jack (not knowing Hanna is there) and the three of them proceed to hang out there for a few days or relaxation. Issues of love and sexuality, betrayal and coming to peace with past mistakes all come up and are worked through.
This is a very nice independent movie filled with some really great acting and great interpersonal quiet moments. Shelton clearly knows how to get actors to do what she wants them to do, to act naturally in strange situations. She also has a very interesting, slow touch, letting shots last for a bit longer than you might normally see in other movies, letting moments sink in a bit deeper. Strangely she seems to either be bad at or unconcerned about framing and composition, as almost every shot is either trite or just weirdly random and neither balanced, nor interestingly asymmetric. (I think it's more that she's just bad at composition because there doesn't really seem to be a point to these clumsy shots.)
I'm always a bit weary of liking Emily Blunt too much, because she seems like too big an actor for me to be very interested in ... and yet, most of what she does is small stuff like this, so I'm really being unfair. Still, she wins me over every time and I fall a bit in love with her. She's got great comic timing and seems heartfelt in her more serious speeches. She's a great match for Duplass and DeWitt here, both of whom are natural and warm. This is a very good trio; a group we wish were our friends we could hang out with in an island cabin.
There is an annoying sentimental ending that really doesn't do much to add to the story, but, other than that, this is a very gown-up post-mumble movie that deals with growing up and putting away childish things. Shelton clearly has chops for some things, but she should work on small elements like her writing and composition. I hope she improves those things -- if she does she will make great movies!
Stars: 2.5 of 4