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Your Sister's Sister

A low-key indie dramedy about modern relationships is hampered by a bit of contrivance

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A year after his brother's death, Jack (Mark Duplass) is still depressed and angry. So Iris (Emily Blunt), his best pal and his brother's former girlfriend, sends him off to her family's isolated cabin to clear his head. But arriving there, Jack finds the place occupied by Iris' sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), who has just ended a seven-year lesbian relationship. Jack and Hannah get drunk and have sex, an awkward situation further complicated when Iris shows up unannounced the next morning.

Writer-director Lynn Shelton's dramedy is a small-scale bit of talk therapy, as these three characters muddle their way through their changing desires over a longish weekend. Shelton's film was shot on a micro-budget in less than two weeks, and the dialogue was heavily improvised by the cast. This often works to good effect, though much depends on your tolerance for dialogue that contains all the meandering and throat-clearing of daily life. So too the film's slower pace, with scenes where nothing much happens, other than spending more time with the characters.

I'm generally pretty tolerant of these films that attempt to mirror relationships as they actually are, with all the bumbling and collateral damage that can occur, rather than the one-liner-filled courtships we normally hurtle through in rom-coms. But after the initial set-up — and the great opening scenes where Jack rages at his brother's memorial party — the plot twists felt pretty calculated. There's one big thing that has to happen for the film to have its meaningful second half, and it defies logic; it was a big enough conceit that it it skewed my response to the scenes that followed. So while I did enjoy the rest of the film, I processed those scenes not emotionally, but as interesting dramatic exercises by capable actors.

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