Three characters, two sisters named Iris (Emily Blunt on a relaxing vacation from her usual stately roles) and Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt, as sharp as she was in Rachel Getting Married) and Iris' best friend, Jack (Mark Duplass, whose screen presence suggest a more intense variation on Seth Rogen and Jason Segel), gather at a secluded island cabin in the Pacific Northwest for three days in Your Sister’s Sister, a comic romantic drama with sensational performances, nuanced writing, and a certain quiet, but also potent and complex power.
It has been one year since Tom, Jack's brother and a former lover of Iris', died. The film opens at a memorial at which an inebriated and upset Jack rejects a sentimental toast to his late brother, insisting he should be remembered for both his flaws and his virtues and not as an idealized, perfect human being.
Jack, it seems, has been in a tailspin since his brother's death, vanishing further and further into resentment and alcoholism. A concerned Iris urges him to spend a few quiet days alone at her father's cabin, and he agrees.
Upon his arrival, however, he finds the cabin occupied by Hannah, Iris' older half sister, who has just left a tempestuous long-term lesbian relationship. Fueled by tequila, Jack and Hannah's hesitant flirtation soon turns into a halfhearted one-night stand, a situation complicated by a surprise visit from Iris the next morning, and complicated further still when Iris, who is not aware of the liaison, tells Hannah she might be in love with Jack. As these aching conundrums play out, bonds of family and friendship are tested. The film provides a provocative glance into three singular lives as they intersect during a period of hard decisions and painful healing.
Written and directed by Lynn Shelton (Humpday) and shot over just twelve days with a spirit of improvisation, Your Sister’s Sister is conclusive evidence a small production can generate enormous rewards if it finds the right cast and is made with intelligence, precision, and warmth. The decision to set the film at a remote cabin, a decision in the spirit of Eric Rohmer (Claire's Knee, Pauline at the Beach), proves effective. The locations are beautiful, and the quiet, unpopulated spaces bring the drama into sharper focus and represent a change of pace from the usual urban or suburban milieu of contemporary American independent films.
The trio of central performances are top-notch. The actors are unafraid to explore their characters' flaws (monstrous insecurities, self-absorptive tendencies) and do so without sacrificing or obscuring their sympathetic charms. Their interactions, the ways in which they investigate and challenge each other, feel authentic and natural, no doubt because they were encouraged to improvise.