If you don’t know what “mumblecore” is (or was) then my describing Lynn Shelton’s Your Sister’s Sister as “post-mumblecore” will mean absolutely diddly to you. If, however, you’re familiar with the term and the filmmaking names and styles that arose out of the lo-fi, independent movement then my aforementioned description of this affably charming romcom will prove most apt. Shelton and her star/executive producer, Mark Duplass (Safety Not Guaranteed), have well and truly moved out of the shadow of mumblecore’s limitations and into the realm of wider public consciousness. It helps that an actor of Emily Blunt’s (The Five-Year Engagement) stature signed on to give this project star wattage, but the film is genuinely a major step up in terms of maturity and skill compared to Shelton and Duplass’ last collaboration, Humpday.
Duplass–trust us, you’ll be hearing that name a lot in the coming months and years–stars as Jack, a man who hasn’t fully recovered from the pain surrounding the death of his brother, a year earlier. Needing a personal sabbatical, he is offered a weekend away at a cabin owned by the father of Emily Blunt’s Iris. However, upon arriving he finds Iris’ sister, Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married) and before long, Iris shows up too. As one can already surmise, tensions arise and romantic entanglements ensue.
What’s refreshing about Your Sister’s Sister is the way that these actors form a small, but tightly structured, ensemble. Mumblecore films were always identifiable by the strong bond that the actors had as a result of personal friendships as well as naturalistic improvisation and collaboration. Duplass, Blunt and DeWitt make for a winning trio and their discussions spark with energy. There’s no such worry of “I don’t believe these people would be friends”, or “these two aren’t believable as sisters at all”, that so many more mainstream films come across as a result of business-oriented casting. Blunt is especially wonderful as Iris, a woman whose charm could have easily dipped into irksome quirkiness in the hands of an actor like Zooey Deschanel. Here, she is funny and smart and she sells the central triangle with aplomb.
Filmed outside of Seattle, Washington, Your Sister’s Sister looks really marvellous. With cinematography by Benjamin Kasulke, the film’s permanently overcast sky never overwhelms the drama, but rather compliments it. A very natural sense of place is effortlessly created and it’s certainly neat to see this area presented like this (the ferries!). At a scant 90 minutes Shelton’s film never outstays its welcome, and in the end makes for a wonderfully funny and uncharacteristically easy take on a genre that has been in disrepair for some time.
Your Sister’s Sister is released in Australia on September 6th
Director: Lynn Shelton
Cast: Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt and Mark Duplass