Let’s get this out of the way right now. Your Sister’s Sister (2012) was my favorite movie of the year. Now that’s out of the way, let’s talk briefly about endings. Premise 1: In a fictional story, none of the events described actually happened. So, “I want to know how it ends” or “What do you think happened to her” are totally meaningless statements. You can’t wonder what job Harry Potter got after Hogwarts because he didn’t flipping exist. So I’m absolutely fine with an ambiguous or open-ended ending. In fact, there’s a good argument that it’s the best kind of ending outside of the destruction of the world and here it is. We only get one piece of this universe and every ending is the beginning of some new story, so by building up the trajectory of the story and cutting it off before it lands sends us (the audience) out of the room with a lot of energy. But when that happens and I love the characters—flipping love the characters—I want one more moment with them. Just one more moment. Man, movies are awesome.
Jack’s (Mark Duplass) brother, Tom, died a year ago and it’s left Jack in a dark place. Jack is best friends with Iris (Emily Blunt), who also happens to be Tom’s ex-girlfriend, and she knows that it’s time for Jack to square up on his life. She sends him to her father’s cabin in rural, gorgeous Washington. He knows that he needs something so he’s willing to submit to any reasonable plan and time without phone or internet seems reasonable. Once there, however, he finds he’s not alone. Iris’s sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) is there taking stock after leaving her lesbian partner of seven years. Jack is very easy and even the relatively guarded Hannah, with the aid of some Cuervo, opens up and they have a lot of discussion that leads to a “Why not?” style, one-off, one-nighter. Iris shows up as a surprise that next morning and Jack makes Hannah promise not to say anything about their close encounter. Iris tells Hannah that she thinks she’s in love with Jack, so Hannah makes Jack promise not to tell Iris. Then things take a turn.
I know that I should bow to writer/director Lynn Shelton first, but I’m just not doing it. I’m going to talk about the cast. These actors are terrific. There’s an old-timey phrase I like about television that goes “we invite them into our homes.” For some shows and some movies the characters are so easy or gratifying in some gentle way that we connect with them. For Duplass and Blunt, this is relatively low-hanging fruit. Who doesn’t love Emily Blunt? What dangerously unbalanced individual looks at her bright smile and simple beauty and thinks, “Eh”? Duplass is a semi-classic, non-threatening type that is the region-free, multi-adapter friend. He belongs in every circle of friends. DeWitt is possibly the first person I’ve ever seen to play a guarded female in a way that I found perfectly genuine and, therefore, someone I wanted to be around.
So, in that way, I’m tempted to give DeWitt the crown for best actual performance because of accomplishing something unique. But no, I think it may be Blunt for playing the best sister character I’ve ever seen. If that’s true, DeWitt has to get credit for playing the best older sister character I’ve ever seen. Their chemistry is incredible because it isn’t the kind of old-buddy, super-lovey performance you usually get. There’s the emotional indelicacy and mutual taking-for-granted that is far more real. This is how good Emily Blunt, DeWitt, and the story is. I almost cried it was so good and it wasn’t even a sad or happy thing. It was just a human moment and it was so good, I was actually moved to tears by the shear truth of it. Like I said, the movie ends, but I wish I got to see their full reactions to [Spoiler].
But Duplass was good too, though very much in the traditional way people are good in dramedies. I don’t want to underrate his accomplishment as trite or anything near to that, but he’s a lost, sensitive character which he plays incredibly well. He does get the unwelcome role of metaphorically scooping the metaphorical chum when it comes time to resolve the conundrum and I am unjustly holding that against him. Also, he makes fun of Hannah’s veganism in a way I do not appreciate.
But Lynn Shelton (writer/director if you’ve forgotten) just nailed it otherwise. Upon reflection, the second turn needed to be built out a little more, but other than that the script was flawless. Obviously, she created the characters and directed the performances, so no small credit goes to her on that point as well. Though, if the majority of the dialogue is improvised, as I’ve read, perhaps a smaller than no small credit should go to her. The look, with Director of Photography Benjamin Kasulke, was just everything I love. Set up the camera and let these people work. Thank you so much. Let the eyes have it. When you’re in a moment, you don’t move around to get the right angle. When you’re enjoying a landscape, you stand in one place. And what a landscape it is. You can see it on the poster, there.
Point of interest: $125,000 is the estimated budget. Interesting point is that this is set in Seattle and rural Washington same as the other Duplass movie, Safety Not Guaranteed (2012), which was also a ludicrously low-budget movie that was awesome. Also of note, the music from Vinny Smith was very good and Smith was also the sound mixer on Safety Not Guaranteed. I guess I have to watch Humpday (2009), another Duplass/Shelton movie, now to complete the circuit.
It’s under $15, that means buy it on Amazon without delay.