Script? What script? We don’t need no stinking scripts here!
Directed by Lynn Shelton and filmed mostly in the San-Juan Islands which are northwest of Seattle, off the coast of Washington State in the Pacific Northwest, this film, called Your Sister’s Sister, is a simple tale of three people – each of whom are in the midst of some of life’s disconnects. One man, let’s call him A for the moment, is sent off to a lonely island cabin, to commune with nature, and take joy in the solitude offered by the place’s remote location by B. When he arrives, he will find that the place is already occupied by C, who as it happens, is B’s sister.
A, is Jack and is played by Mark Duplass. He’s lost his brother prior to the film’s opening. A year later he’ s still in a funk. His brother’s ex-girl friend Iris, whom we designated as B, is played by the delightful Emily Blunt. Following the brother’s death, Iris and Jack have a rather close relationship that has grown into, well… a rather close adult relationship that it is strictly platonic. Iris, seeking to help Jack get back on his feet spiritually and to ease his anguish, suggests that he get away from it all, and to do this, he should spend a week in her father’s island getaway. Time and distance should help heal all wounds was the thought.
The aforementioned C is Hannah and that role is played by Rosemary DeWitt who came to the project late after a scheduling conflict arose. Originally, the casting of the role had gone to Rachel Weisz. Now Hannah has fled to Dad’s cabin because she too is in need of solitude, meditation, and the restorative and healing powers that this cabin retreat offered. She’s just gone through the painful break up of a seven-year long lesbian relationship.
First of all, Jack didn’t know that Hannah would be there. Second, Hannah didn’t know that Jack would be arriving there. And third, neither of them knew that Iris would be arriving there, the very next morning.
And that dear readers, is all the set up you get from me this time.
This is a very small film with just three main characters, and only a few small speaking parts besides the principles. Lynn Shelton has made this indie feature on an exceedingly small budget, and was no doubt helped by the three main actors who took on the roles in order to put their acting chops on display, and likely offered their services for mere pennies on the dollar compared to their standard numbers. To give you another idea of the size of the film – it was shot in a mere twelve days. Another fact about the film is that Lynn Shelton did not spend a lot of time in showing us the wondrous landscapes of the San Juan Islands which was where they shot the film. We had only a few fleeting glimpses of the woodlands, the coast and the Anacortes ferries. which ply the routes to the islands. I’ve ridden on the Washington State Ferries departing out of Seattle, to Bremerton and Bainbridge Island, but not those departing from Anacortes. Which means I’m familiar with the ferries – we do get a fleeting glimpse of them – if not the San Juan islands themselves.
I understand that Shelton spent quite some time with Duplass, Blunt, and DeWitt working out the back stories of the characters. Meaning those details weren’t in the script. The result is that much of the dialogues that we do watch are improvisational – as in Blunt, Duplass, and DeWitt creating the dialogues from within themselves as the characters. In short, employing their best ‘method acting’ skills.