GFF 2012 - Opening Gala: Your Sister's Sister
Mumblecore director Lynn Shelton introduces her latest film at the opening of the Glasgow Film Fest
GFF 2012 blog
Director Lynn Shelton was at the Glasgow Film Theatre last night to introduce her opening gala feature, Your Sister's Sister. She seemed ecstatically happy to be there, hugging co-director Allison Gardner ahead of the screening. Then, after the usual raft of introductory speeches, she said just a few words.
'This is the first time one of my films has opened a film festival,' Shelton acknowledged. It's possible to see why this is the case. Your Sister's Sister – like Shelton's previous film, Humpday, and like the other 'mumblecore' movies that her work is often grouped with – isn't particularly gritty, or challenging. It's not spectacular, or majestic. It is, as to be expected, a very close and beautifully observed portrait of three people muddling their way through their lives. In doing that, it's completely brllliant.
Mumblecore, for the uninitiated, is an American indie filmmaking scene. Perhaps it's more of a slackers filmmaking club. If you're starting with a minimal idea, a tiny budget, and your friends (who aren’t trained actors and therefore have to play some version of themselves) you're getting close to being a mumblecore filmmaker. You can't fail to be honest, because there's nowhere fancy that your film can hide. There aren't any Dogme-like strict rules, but mumblecore movies do all push human relationships, and the revealing nature of conversation (no matter how inane) to the fore.
Mark Duplass (himself a mumblecore writer of films including The Puffy Chair) stars in Your Sister's Sister as Jack. It's one year since Jack's brother's death. He describes his emotional state as 'at best precarious, at worst crippled'. Best friend (and ex of his brother) Iris (Emily Blunt) sends him out to her family cabin on a picturesque island to get some headspace. There Jack bumps into Iris' sister, Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), who is also trying to get some alone time after breaking up with her long-term girlfriend. One bottle of tequila later, and by the time Iris turns up to check on Jack, things have already become very messed up.
What's striking about Your Sister's Sister is how funny it is. Usually watching people talking, and talking, and talking – innocuously, sometimes ignorantly – is more interesting than amusing. But the first half of Shelton's film is fantastically funny. There's no sense that the comedy is forced or choreographed. The largely improvised performances are fluent and absorbing. Shelton's masterstroke is to make a film with a simple and tight structure, that is full of impeccable comic set pieces, but that preserves a realistic sense of chaos and quirkiness.
Duplass is pitch perfect as Jack, the lovable slacker. Emily Blunt and Rosamarie DeWitt too are lovely together as sisters who get into bed with each other in the middle of the night to chat about their love lives. The powerful sense of nostalgia that comes with the film is not a calculated effect. It's just the feeling of recognising so much that's true, and good, about life. And what more could you ask for from a film festival opener?
Understandably enough Your Sister's Sister was a big hit with the audience and there was a healthy sense of buzz at the after party. A very solid start.