Perth’s Revelation Film Festival opened with Lynn Shelton’s latest, continuing the dominance of Mark Duplass on the world of indie film.
In Lynn Shelton’s debut film We Go Way Back, she depicted the comic-tragic circumstances around a 23-year-old actress being confronted by her 13-year-old self. The personal aspect to this theme is something that continued throughout Shelton’s work, which is probably what made her last film Humpday (2009) such a disappointment to followers. After coming out as bisexual this year, Your Sister’s Sister continues injecting her films with personal poignancy, exploring gender relations with her familiar micro-budget and semi-improvisational techniques that she has used in other films.
A year after the death of his brother, Jack (Mark Duplass) is still in emotional arrested development. Following his outburst at a memorial for his brother, his best friend Iris (Emily Blunt) suggests he take a time-out in her cabin in the woods. Thinking he will be alone, he is surprised to meet Iris’s sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt). Despite Hannah being openly gay, the pair sleep together after they get incredibly drunk. Complicating matters is the arrival of Iris, who Jack secretly harbours feelings for, and they may be mutual.
Shelton’s low-key film is simplicity itself, a character piece that focuses on it three outstanding cast members, who largely make up the dialogue as they go along. Given scenarios and some dialogue, the actors are encouraged to go with a scene once they get a feeling for it, and this results in an incredibly natural set of interactions between this triptych. Each one of the characters is harbouring a secret from at least one other character, which leads to an interesting dynamic.
The intimacy of the approach leads the viewer to feel like a fly on the wall, and occasionally complicit in the complications that arise. This approach would not work without the support of a phenomenal cast, including the incredibly talented DeWitt, seen most recently on TV’s United States of Tara. Blunt is outright charming as usual, and her humour is infectious. Duplass is, as always, so earnest and open in his performance that it is impossible to not find his style magnetic and refreshingly open.
While not precisely sitting inside rom-com genre, it borrows from “mumblecore” by virtually removing all external obstacles to the union of the leads. What remains is a group separated by their own insecurities, a far more realistic approach than the cookie-cutter comedies that are released with alarming regularity. Your Sister’s Sister is filled with an intangible sweetness, and gets to the heart of complex human relations effortlessly.