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Scarecrow on Seattle: YOUR SISTER'S SISTER






Every month, Scarecrow Video reviews a film made in the Pacific Northwest for the Seattle Office of Film + Music's e-newsletter. 


Your Sister’s Sister (2011)

As the 2013 Seattle International Film Festival rapidly approaches, this month we take a look at last year’s Opening Night film: the sweet, touching and often funny Your Sister’s Sister, written and directed by local filmmaker extraordinaire Lynn Shelton. At a small gathering marking the one year anniversary of his brother Tom’s death, Jack (Mark Duplass) is clearly in a downward spiral. He’s still dealing with the loss and is left without the strength to fight back as other parts of his life crumble away. His one anchor is Iris (Emily Blunt), Tom’s ex-girlfriend and his current best friend. She decides to intervene and sentences him to a sabbatical at her father’s cabin in the San Juan Islands. Upon his arrival, Jack finds Iris’ sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), who is recovering from her own life upheaval. Alcohol consumption, oversharing, and really awkward sex follow. Iris unexpectedly arrives the next morning, and over the next few days feelings both expected and somewhat surprising are revealed. Just as in Humpday, Shelton demonstrates her rare and incredible ability to capture moments of humanity in all their flawed, floundering greatness: Duplass taking out some frustration on his bike by a Dumpster, Dewitt drunkenly describing her deteriorating relationship, and Blunt’s reaction to a particularly embarrassing story Hannah tells about her and an ex-boyfriend. In the hands of less adept storytellers, such things might be played up for slapstick or melodrama. But as portrayed by Shelton and her cast, it just feels true.

Your Sister’s Sister is full of subtle nods to the Northwest, starting with some of its residents. Tom, shown in photographs, is local filmmaker Michael Harring, director of The Mountain, The River and the Road. Among his mourners are noted locals like Wheedle’s Groove director Jennifer Maas, Jeanette Maus from of Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle, and Jason Dodson from local band The Maldives. Location-wise, Ms. Shelton doesn’t flash the standard Seattle money shots. Instead we see the city as we live in it—a rainy intersection of Capitol Hill, a glimpse of Puget Sound in between skyscrapers, the worn wooden structures around the ferry terminal. The San Juans are the real geographic star of the film. Iris describes the cabin as “idyllic, crisp and peaceful,” which is exactly what cinematographer Benjamin Kasulke captures with sleepy, early morning light, misty forest trails, and ferries drifting over glassy water.—Jen Koogler

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