“Your Sister’s Sister”: Lynn Shelton on Loss, Secrets, and Siblings

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone, favorably describes the current indie film Your Sister’s Sister:

Relationships are killers, and this tough, tender, deeply satisfying romantic comedy from writer-director Lynn Shelton (Humpday) is also bruisingly funny. After his brother’s death, Jack (Mark Duplass) takes an offer from his platonic friend Iris (Emily Blunt) to chill at her family’s island cottage. Expecting solitude, Jack finds Iris’ older sister, Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), nursing her own wounds after breaking up with her girlfriend of seven years. A tequila night ends with Jack and Hannah improbably in bed and Iris’ arrival the next morning as Jack and Hannah try to hide all evidence of their one-nighter…

A trio of superb performances guide a plot that pivots on secrets and lies before they fester. Your Sister’s Sister works its way into your head until you can’t stop thinking about it. Don’t know about you, but I’d call that a winning proposition.

About the sister dynamics, director Lynn Shelton has this to say in an interview reported on The Huffington Post:

I have really uncomplicated relationships with my siblings, but I have observed unbelievably complicated, rich, dense, fascinating relationships between siblings around me. In general, as a filmmaker, I’m drawn to relationships where people desperately want to connect, but it’s not easy for them, for one reason or another. Siblings have such a shared history, and there are all kinds of resentments that you don’t want to hold on to, but that end up coming up—past betrayals, jealousies, competitiveness…

So, to sum it up, it seems that themes of grief and loss—the death of a sibling, the breakup of a relationship—set the backdrop for an improbable pairing, some secrets and lies, interesting sister issues, and more.

Notably, much of the acting and script in Your Sister’s Sister has improvisational origins—impressive to some critics, while others have found it too “talky.” And Rex Reed, New York Observer, just seems to be torn: “The jabber is maddening, but with all due respect, the actors are wonderful, the performances as natural as inhaling. Still, in Emily Blunt’s case, there is such a thing as too natural.”

It’s been called “satisfyingly engaging” by Rotten Tomatoes and ultimately unsatisfying by others, for example, Melissa Anderson of the Village Voice, who opens her review with the following: “Beginning with a bilious toast and ending with a group hug, Lynn Shelton’s Your Sister’s Sister, her fourth film, expertly makes us squirm for about half its running time only to soothe us with empty pop-psych declarations.”

Some other contradicting opinions?

This film is believable, real.

Aaron Peck, film.com: “…a very natural film experience with real characters in believable situations.”

Or, maybe not so much?

Todd Jorgenson, Cinemalogue.com: “The low-budget film relies on character authenticity but ultimately requires too much suspension of disbelief.”

It’s pleasant, pleasurable.

Ann HornadayWashington Post: “Very little is simple in ‘Your Sister’s Sister’ — not the emotions, the naturalistic tone or the unstudied, easygoing performances. But the film’s pleasures are.”

But, no great shakes?

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: “It’s pleasant as far as it goes. For all the blithe interaction among the central three performers, however, the material’s conventional and predictable.”

You’ll like these characters.

Ty Burr, Boston Globe: “By the end of this graceful little emotional farce, you know these people, their hopes and their panic, and you wish them the very best.”

But, not as much as they like themselves?

London Evening Standard: “Good performances and a handy screenplay help things along, but these people find themselves more fascinating than I did.”

Characters trump plot.

John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter: “If the movie’s sweetly earnest resolution scene plays a bit too easily, we like the characters too much to object.”

Or not?

Ron Wilkinson, MonstersandCritics: “Everything is a simply too pat, too self-assured. In fact, the characters themselves are a little too pat and self-assured to be true neurotics.”

Well, take a look at the trailer, consider the above reviews—is it worth seeing?

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