Your Sister’s Sister

Your Sister’s Sister (2011)
★★ / ★★★★

As his closest friend, Iris (Emily Blunt) feels that Jack (Mark Duplass) could use some time for himself after the death of his brother so she invites him to stay at her family’s vacation home. He accepts but when he gets there, it turns out that Iris’ half-sister, Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), is also using the place in order so sort things out. Half-mistaken as a peeping Tom, suffice to say that things between Jack and Hannah start awkwardly but the two soon find a connection over a bottle of tequila.

Based on the screenplay and directed by Lynn Shelton, “Your Sister’s Sister” has a great ear for dialogue partnered with winning performances but its weak third act keeps us at arm’s length unintentionally instead of drawing us in and feeling convinced that the ending is right for the specific story being told.

The three performers are able to function on a synergistic wavelength in order to make their respective characters and the emotions they go through believable. Duplass plays Jack with a schlubby vulnerability that is familiar but appropriately comforting, Blunt gives Iris the necessary energy as the mediator between two people she loves, and DeWitt injects Hannah with an edge messy enough to leave us wary of her intentions. We can predict that the relationships will be challenged but there is something about these characters that make us want to know more.

Because it is essentially a three-person show, we get to dive into the dynamics between Iris and Hannah as well as the special friendship between Irish and Jack. There are no big scenes of sweeping realizations. Most of the information they learn from one another are played either through laughs when a story is recalled or a joke is made or silence if a sensitive matter is introduced and using words does not feel right as a tool for comfort. They think and behave like real people making the best out of the cards that have been handed to them.

Three-quarters through, however, the picture drops the ball with a deafening thud. Once secrets are out in the open, the material goes through the usual motions of sad music playing in the background and montages of silence between characters that is so typical, it is comic more than dramatic. With such intelligence and heart that manage to guide the screenplay for more than half of the race, is leaning on clichés really the only way to conclude the story?

The final shot is a dare for critical evaluation. I did not find it annoying, but I found it tripe and too easy. It rings false because the writer-director has not found a way for the audience to get over the awkwardness we feel for them. It feels like a season finale of a sitcom still learning to stand on its feet instead of a film that is complete where we can believe that these characters can go on to live their lives after it fades to black.

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