Hey Little Sister, What Have You Done

Your Sister's SisterI’ve always told my husband that among the many ways to be unfaithful, sleeping with my sister is the absolute unforgivable betrayal.  It’s hard to say why, exactly, because all cheating is wrong.  And while I like to think I am an open-minded person capable of forgiveness and grace, I feel entirely confidant that a tryst with my very own sister could not be overcome.  Not by me.  Which is why the premise of the indie flick Your Sister’s Sister initially put me off.  After catching it on HBO one random evening, however, it proved to me that nearly any idea, if executed properly, can make for a delightful movie.

Your Sister’s Sister tells a simple enough story (with one kind of big, unforeseen twist) but the charming performances and chemistry between the actors along with some mighty fine writing and pretty scenery make it exceptional.  In its opening scenes, we see Jack (Mark Duplass) and Iris at a memorial for Jack’s brother, who we learn later was once Iris’s boyfriend.  Jack and Iris have since formed a tight friendship, so when it becomes apparent that Jack isn’t handling the loss of his brother well, Iris convinces him to take a holiday at the cabin her family owns to clear his head and properly grieve.  He arrives at the cabin late at night to find Iris’s sister, Hannah, who’s staying there temporarily to heal from a bad break-up from her long-time girlfriend.  Even though Hannah is a lesbian, she and Jack sleep together after emptying a bottle of wine and sharing their tales of woe.  Iris shows up unexpectedly the next morning, after which Jack asks Hannah to keep their encounter a secret for fear it would make things awkward between he and Iris, a request Hannah readily agrees to.  Until, of course, Iris confides in her that she is in love with Jack.

Like I said, a fairly predictable plot.  Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt as Iris and Hannah have genuine sisterly chemistry, so much so that you barely bother asking yourself why one has an English accent and the other an American one.  It doesn’t matter; they are entirely believable as sisters.  And each has charismatic chemistry with Duplass, who plays his role with such warmth and sincerity, he never falls into the obvious trap of the creepy perv who wants to sleep his way through a family.  Having sex with a man who has also had sex with my sister is such a vile idea to me that I was surprised at my willingness to look past this and root for Jack and Iris to end up together.  It’s truly a testament to the superb performances as well as the fine direction.  Writer/director Lynn Shelton knows how to pace a story.  She takes just enough time with the unfolding of events that it neither feels rushed nor unnecessarily slow.  Instead, it feels natural and organic.  What happens between these three people and their reactions to it are wholly believable.

I did wonder how all three of them were financially able to spend such a lengthy amount of time at a remote cabin and not lose their jobs or get evicted from their homes but this is such a minor discrepancy, I feel silly for even bringing it up.  They never bother to explain it because it isn’t relevant to the plot.  I admit it sounds unrealistic but who knows, maybe they have the kinds of jobs you can do from home.  Or maybe they’re between jobs.  Maybe they had a bunch of vacation time saved up.  It just doesn’t matter.  The flick is so irresistibly charming, it’s more than easy to look past it.

Your Sister’s Sister is not on EW’s “50 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen” list, but it should be.