One to keep you warm at night
Your Sister’s Sister
Until last week I hadn’t come across the term ‘‘mumblecore’’ or seen any pictures made by or starring Mark and Jay Duplass, Lynn Shelton, Andrew Bujalski, Aaron Katz or Joe Swanberg.
I’ll blame my young children for this pocket of film geek ignorance, since their arrival and associated expenses in recent years have primarily kept me away from film festivals – normally the only occasions one’s likely to encounter these film makers.
I was aware of the buzz surrounding Humpday in 2009 but alas, never made it to a screening and the Duplass brothers broke into the multiplexes with Cyrus in 2010 but it starred Jonah Hill right around the time I felt I had had enough of Jonah Hill.
Mumblecore predicates a movement or shared characteristics of low budget film making where naturalistic dialogue and improvised performances are to the fore, tendencies that prevail in Your Sister’s Sister, which consists of three characters at a summer house, doing a lot of talking, some drinking and a very short but very complicating spell of sex.
It seems the proponents of mumblecore, quite rightly, despise the awkward phrase and any suggestion that such a style of film-making was fashioned in the noughties is a misnomer.
Return to Richard Linklater ( Slacker) and James Mangold ( Heavy) in the early 1990s, or John Cassavetes and Woody Allen in the 1960s and 1970s, and you’ll find similar predilections towards no-frills film-making with rambling repartee.
Of course, it doesn’t matter who came first, so long as it’s engaging cinema and Your Sister’s Sister certainly that.
Struggling to recover from the death of his brother 12 months earlier, Jack (Mark Duplass) is sent to a remote island holiday house by his best friend Iris (Emily Blunt), who was also an
is ex-girlfriend of his late brother.
When Jack arrives he finds Iris’ sister Hannah had similar ‘‘metime’’ intentions after a relationship bust-up. Jack and Hannah lick their emotional wounds with the help of a bottle of tequila and one thing leads to another which leads to the bedroom.
The next day Iris makes a surprise appearance and things get very complicated.
Jack, Iris and Hannah are a Bermuda triangle of secrets, affection and affliction but this isn’t a picture built on gushing confessions and revelations. Though the third act does get a little contrived and overwrought in its effort to ensure each character has a cross to bear. The magic here is in the little moments; the chatter of siblings, Iris and Jack feinting pleasure in Hannah’s vegan pancakes, Hannah teasing Iris about an ex-boyfriend, Jack’s jittery guilt about his and Hannah’s brief encounter.
Despite a couple of forced turns, Your Sister’s Sister rings true. The performances are from the top shelf and director Lynn Shelton mines every ounce of wistfulness from the damp, woody Pacific Northwest setting.
And perhaps better than the movie itself is the reminder that there are still film makers who can wring more emotion, humour and humanity with a budget of $125,000 than a whole summer’s slate of bloated blockbusters could manage combined.
Three wheeler: Jack (Mark Duplass) and sisters Iris (Emily Blunt) and Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) keep it natural in low-budget dramedy Your Sister’s Sister with rewarding results.