Writer/director Lynn Shelton moves forward and upward from her acclaimed mumblecore sex comedy Humpday with Your Sister's Sister, a fuzzy and free romantic comedy of mismatched loves at a Seattle cabin over the course of a few days, where sex rears its ugly head to destroy - or reinforce - the fragile balance of love. Still reeling from the death of his brother one year earlier, Jack (Mark Duplass) accepts his best friend Iris's (Emily Blunt) offer of her family's cabin retreat in Puget Sound to spend some alone time and think things through. Once there, though, he finds Iris's half-sister Hannah (Rosemarie de Witt), whom he'd never met, has had the same idea; a drunken night leads to casual sex and lots of dissembling when Iris arrives the following day out of the blue, with the awkwardness of the situation revealing everyone's true feelings for one another.

     Though - as in Humpday - Your Sister's Sister was in fact partly improvised by the cast over Ms. Shelton's narrative framework, I can't help but see something delightfully Lubitschian in the light, buoyant, utterly relatable touch with which the tale develops, with an unexpected elegance and discretion underlined by the actors' easy back-and-forth. The comedy of errors develops at first in a very traditional manner, but does so with a tenderness, a frankness, a freshness that have been mostly absent from more mainstream fare, with the lightness required to talk of serious things without falling into the maudlin or the farcical.

     What is most surprising is that, in essence, the new film pretty much follows the basic no-budget template of mumblecore - minimal cast and crew, low budget, improvisation to the fore, maximum attention to actors and dialogue - and yet it rises above any easy categorisation, in many ways thanks to the unobtrusive yet sensitive camerawork (kudos to DP Benjamin Kasulke) and the attention paid to the performers' beats. It is also notable just how easy both Ms. Blunt and Ms. De Witt click into place with Mr. Duplass, a veteran of both Humpday and the mumblecore movement of young filmmakers with which Ms. Shelton has become affiliated. And the director herself is in excellent control of the film's rhythm, tempo and tone, making this a truly welcome, comforting surprise in the realm of contemporary Hollywood comedy: a smart, well-made, intelligent film.

Cast: Emily Blunt, Rosemarie de Witt, Mark Duplass

Director and writer: Lynn Shelton
Cinematography: Benjamin Kasulke (colour)
Music: Vinny Smith
Designer: John Lavin
Editor: Nat Sanders
Producer: Steven Schardt (Ada Films)
USA, 2011, 90 minutes

Screened: DVD, Lisbon, December 19th 2012


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