Three people walk into a kitchen in Your Sister’s Sister: Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), a vegan lesbian recovering from a fresh breakup with a longtime partner; her half sister, Iris (Emily Blunt); and Iris’ messed-up friend Jack (Mark Duplass). To the unstinting credit of writer-director Lynn Shelton and the perfectly harmonized cast in this instantly disarming funny-deep drama, no one is ever an indie punchline.
They all could have been, as the trio tumble into a thicket of dangerously colorful complications. An emotional wreck a year after the death of his brother, Jack arrives expecting solitude: Iris sent him there, to her family’s Pacific Northwest getaway, as a kind of rest cure. But Hannah is already ensconced, having anticipated her own kind of privacy. A spontaneous night of shared drinking has consequences. And the next day Iris shows up, also unexpected, bearing her own emotional secrets. Hannah’s vegan pancakes may taste awful, but the movie’s understanding of love — hetero, homo, fraternal — is delicious.
Three years ago in Humpday Shelton threw down a sly and somewhat jokey feminist challenge to the conventions of hetero male-bonding movies. Your Sister’s Sister moves far beyond easy conventions, and the rewards are all the richer. There’s an exciting dynamic tension in the shifting triangular relationships and a magical alchemy among the players. Each an actor of distinctive delicacy, Duplass, DeWitt, and Blunt do some of their subtlest, most sweetly calibrated work ever, playing off one another with the kind of ease and trust that is, in itself, a demonstration of love. A-