Lynn Shelton, a relatively new director, her first title being We Go Way Back, is driven to make films the way she wants to. Fed up with the processes that can stagnate and slow a film's progress, she has come up with a simple and effective idea: just make the films you want and then worry about the rest later. She surrounds herself with motivated and like-minded people who believe in what she is trying to achieve, and then, together, they get it done. One of these people who seem to understand Shelton and are mutual beneficiaries of each others outlook is Mark Duplass, a recurring actor in Shelton’s work, most notably in her breakthrough film, Humpday. Duplass, now acclaimed in his own right, especially within the ‘indie’ scene, has a distinct and attractive style that he can impose on his characters when working with Lynn Shelton. The semi-improvisational style that is used in his and Shelton’s joint ventures is a breath of fresh air from the usual cinema going experience and makes the film all the more intriguing and gripping.
Your Sister’s Sister is the story of two close friends, Iris (Emily Blunt) and Jack (Duplass), who have both hit lulls in their lives. In an attempt to relieve stress and gain some fresh perspective Iris insists on Jack taking some time and going to stay at a holiday home that her family own. On arrival Jack finds that he is not as alone in this place as he thought he would be, finding instead Iris’ half sister, Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt).
The story seems predictable, and you’d be right. This isn’t a film that breaks down narrative conventions. Like a lot of American independent cinema right now, they don’t reject their mainstream counterparts on the basis of drama, genre and a happy ever after. However, they do reject the spectacle, the pomp and most of all the choreographed and predictable dialogue. How the actors interact with each other on screen is unique. Shelton said she encouraged the actors to improvise, even though she had written 70 pages of script by the start of filming. Improvising takes a lot of work with your character, being able to slip into a second skin, so to speak, so that reactions and movements are as natural as your own. The actors did this to varying degrees of success in the film. Duplass and Dewitt’s chemistry and performances were beautiful to watch, natural and are the grounding for some of the funniest moments in the film. Blunt on the other hand, maybe because of the slightly out of place English accent, seemed a little uneasy within her ‘second skin’ and was responsible for some of the most cringing moments in the film. However, the naturalistic approach to dialogue was, on the whole, enticing, leaving you with a sense that the conversation could take a turn in any direction at any moment.
Duplass and Dewitt’s chemistry and performances were beautiful to watch, natural and are the grounding for some of the funniest moments in the film.
Shelton is quoted in an interview saying, ‘We’re all flawed, and we all make mistakes, and we all have weaknesses. And those are the kind of people I want to see onscreen, the ones that feel like real flesh-and-blood human beings and not the weird, whitewashed, Hollywood stand-ins for people with the rough edges sanded off that I can’t connect to because they just don’t resonate with me.’ This exemplifies her approach to her work and in particular Your Sister’s Sister. She is intoxicated by human relationships, real human relationships, and this definitely comes across throughout the film. However an idealist overtone pervades the film that just rubbed up my pessimistic side the wrong way. The romantic elements in the film, at times, feel more like something out of Love Actually rather than , say, Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise, which, for me, is a far more thought provoking exploration into relationships and romance. This being said though, the film still had me smiling pretty much throughout (save a few moments where I was cringing inside.. but still smiling I suppose) and some truly funny moments that had me and the rest of the little audience laughing out loud.
It was a good film to watch and I would recommend people to go and see it for the great acting and heartfelt humility it brings to the screen. Mark Duplass and Rosemarie DeWitt are brilliant and there are some really funny moments. A reinvigorating approach to the genre of romantic comedy that by far blows any rom-com exported by hollywood in the last 5 years out of the water, ten fold. Take your girlfriends and they will love you; take your boyfriends and they will be pleasantly surprised, and probably laugh more than you do!..
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