Sunday, 17 June 2012

Your Sister's Sister

Caught this at a members' free preview screening at Harbour Lights - well done Picture House!

I didn't quite know what to expect. What I encountered was an intelligent and engaging emotional drama that explores themes of loss, grief, love, betrayal and the fear of losing what you don't already have! Essentially it's a film about relationships. The story is told with irony and occasional humour. At the heart of the story are two sisters, Iris (Emily Blunt) and Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) and Iris' best friend Jack (Mark Duplass) who is the brother of Iris' ex - Tom. The film opens with a group of Tom's friends - including Iris and Jack meeting to commemorate the first anniversary of Tom's death.

This is a beautifully shot film that presents Seattle and one of Puget Sound's island communities in mist-laden muted technicolour. The film moves between indoor and outdoor scenes as the characters journey through their own inner hidden and then revealed vulnerabilities. It is good to see a low-tech, no special effects character film that is driven by the narrative and the performances of the actors. There are very few scenes with more than the three of them and the way the triangular relationships develop keeps the plot moving - although I felt it did get a little bogged down for five minutes in the middle. The ending is simply superb - I will say no more.

The characters are believable and the situation they confront displays human weakness and vulnerability in cringing detail. It is also a film about hope, forgiveness and reconciliation. The physical isolation of the location reinforces their shared sense of being alone. The ties of family and of siblings in particular forms a strong thread that runs through the story. Dealing with such deep and profound themes it would have been easy for the film to drown in slushy sentimentality or melodrama. Full credit goes to the Director Lynn Shelton and cast for avoiding the traps of cliche that the subject matter could have so easily delivered.

This film sets out a landscape of relationships that feels very contemporary - perhaps the kind of story Douglas Coupland might have written (in a Generation X sense). At times you can almost hear the pain and anguish being processed internally by the characters' emotional machinery as they try to come to terms with developments and attempt to find a way of moving on. This film engenders empathy from viewers as you accompany three people facing their own and each other's demons. It moved me to tears on a couple of occasions!

It is gentle and engaging, a treat. Do go and see it. I'll give it 8/10

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