Your Sister’s Sister

Mumblecore is the label given to a style of recent low-budget indie films, usually shot on digital (so it resembles a home movie) in which the actors improvise their dialogue, giving a distinct sense of naturalism to every scene. I intensely disliked director/writer Lynn Shelton’s previous film, Humpday (a bromance about experiments in gay pornography), so I was pleasantly surprised to find myself charmed by her newest and fourth film, Your Sister’s Sister.

Jack (actor and mumblecore filmmaker Mark Dupless) is a 30s something slacker with shaggy hair, and puffy jowls — not your standard sexy hunk, but he listens well, cooks a mean steak and looks like he’d keep you warm on cold winter nights. In other words, he’s a huggable bear-diamond in the rough. After the death of his brother a year ago, Jack is rudderless, unemployed, “emotionally precarious,” and too unstable to risk confessing his love for his best friend, Iris. Iris (Emily Blunt), has a job of some kind, great hair, stylish clothes, an English accent from her British mother, and knows how to set agendas. She insists that Jack spend a week by himself at her family’s vacation cabin on a nearby island in Puget Sound and let solitude soothe his soul.

After he ferries to the island and rides his old red bike to the cabin, Jack is chagrined to find it already occupied — by an attractive, nearly naked woman. Iris’ half sister, Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), has sought refuge in the cabin to heal her wounds after the sudden break up of a 7-year lesbian relationship.

Hannah and Jack soon do what normal people do when stuck in the middle of the forest without TV or Internet — they talk and talk. Their adlib dialogue is wonderfully natural and intimate and you feel you’re right there with them laughing and getting drunk. And then, well, hey, with all that naturalness and tequila, they giggle their way under the sheets. Alas, it’s such an embarrassingly short encounter, that Hannah is bound to go back to women.

Next morning — you guessed it — surprise! Iris arrives carrying sacks of groceries. She’s delighted to see her sister and eager to engage in endless sister talk. She can’t wait to share her big secret — she’s in love with Jack, and wants to tell him. Maybe she and Jack can stop being pals in bed and spooning head to toe. She’d like to feel more than his foot on her face. But uh oh! Trying to keep Iris unaware of last night’s sexual escapade turns out to both hilarious and impossible. In this movie, secrets have a will of their own — they want to burst out and applaud themselves.

Uh oh, again — Iris finds out — and is devastated.

Jack, being Jack, runs away to camp out by his lonesome, leaving the sisters to fend with the emotional crisis themselves. Because they are nice people, Iris and Hannah don’t scream at one another like my siblings and I always do — hey cry and pout and go for long walks in the moody forest scenery. As Hannah tells Iris, “I love you, but I don’t like you very much.”

We all know that nothing could really sever their sisterly bond. Until another secret explodes.

Uh oh — can’t tell you this one, but it’s a doozy and it makes this sometimes somnolent tale take a whole new twist. It’s lovely and touching and poignant. And it ends up being a story about three decent people who make a mistake and take responsibility for it — an unusual and noble solution to life’s problems and something rarely seen in the movies.

If you can forego extraterrestrial spaceships and eye-boggling special effects, and would like to see a movie about real people that makes you feel good, catch Your Sister’s Sister.

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