Every now and then, a film comes along where you want to marry all of the main characters. Your Sister’s Sister (2011) is one of those films. Lynn Shelton’s small-scale story sees Jack (Mark Duplass) trying to get his head straight after his brother’s death. On the advice of best friend Iris (Emily Blunt), he agrees to spend a week alone in her isolated cabin – reluctantly. “Will there be forks? I’ll have to stab myself in the face”, he grimaces.
When Jack gets there, though, forks are the least of his worries. It turns out Iris’ sister, Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), has had the same idea, hiding in the woods to recover from a break-up with her girlfriend. A bottle of tequila later and they’ve jumped into bed with each other – only to wake up the next day and see Iris at the front door. It’s a setup fraught with dilemmas. Secrets, loyalties and long-harboured affections all come to stay, crowding the cabin with confusion. Will Iris found out about their fling? Why does Jack care? What will Hannah do now?
Your Sister’s Sister’s semi-improvised script lets the characters free-wheel their way through the scenes, but let’s rewind to that bit with the tequila. Sitting at the table together, Jack and Iris take it in turns to down shots, throwing up back stories with a natural ease. It starts off awkward and then gets chummy – you don’t even notice the shift to steamy. That’s how smooth the chemistry between the cast is: it’s a ménage à trois of sublime acting.
As the mixed-up man in the middle, Duplass is quietly charming. He’s grouchy but witty, selfish yet sensitive, and he doesn’t overplay any of them. Blunt, meanwhile, is as charming as ever – between this and The Five-Year Engagement, her improv skills are beyond doubt. But it’s DeWitt who steals the show. No stranger to the world of messed-up indie drama, she takes a lesbian, vegan home-wrecker and fleshes her out to a fully-rounded person who snipes at her sister one minute and snuggles up with her the next. Then makes gluten-free pancakes for everyone.
Shelton shoots her lovable ensemble in soft, glowing hues, keeping everything loose without letting it fall apart. It’s a shame, then, that Hannah and her sister’s messy weekend loses some of that ragged truthfulness towards the end. After raising questions that dig deeper than a fork in the face, Shelton seems to answer their problems in one quick montage; a disappointing resolution to a frank and moving 90 minutes. But if you can go with the cheeky ending, Your Sister’s Sister is still an enjoyable muddle of emotions – not least because you won’t know which character you love the most. With its trio of pitch-perfect performances, this is probably the best threesome you’ll see all year.