Toronto 2011: ‘Your Sister’s Sister’ finds a parent


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Sweet, tender dramedies have started to emerge as a Toronto International Film Festival trend, what with ‘50/50,’ ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ and ‘Friends With Kids’ all landing acclaim in the first seven days of the festival.

Now you can add another movie to the list: ‘Your Sister’s Sister,’ Lynn Shelton’s heartfelt film about a bluff but lovable man (Mark Duplass) and two sisters with whom he becomes entangled (Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt).


On Wednesday afternoon, the movie sold to distributor IFC, ensuring it will soon be made available to a larger consumer audience. (The company has not announced a release date.)

Earlier in the day, ‘Sister’ played for the media, the latest in a series of good-vibe screenings for what is turning into one of the festival’s sleeper titles.

Written and directed by Shelton, ‘Sister’ is a follow-up to her 2009 bromance ‘Humpday,’ a Sundance hit which saw Duplass and Josh Leonard back themselves into a corner of machismo when they dare each other to make a male porn movie.

Sex is also on the docket here, but so are weightier themes, including grief. And while close relationships among members of the same sex again rule the day, this time it’s the women taking center stage as Iris (Blunt, who also appears in ‘Salmon Fishing’) and Hannah (DeWitt) hash out jealousies and grievances over a few days in an island house in Shelton’s native Washington state.

The linchpin between the sisters is Jack, whose late brother once dated Iris. Jack, who a year later hasn’t gotten over his brother’s death, has now become close to Iris, a complicated enough dynamic if Hannah didn’t further come between them.

The development process on “Sister” again followed Shelton’s favored method of allowing actors to develop characters and improvise lines, although there’s a slickness to ‘Sister’ not found in other movies of this ilk and budget; the more elaborate plotting puts it a good distance away from the stuttering-and-stammering mumblecore movies that quickly rose and sunk in the 2000s. It may be made for less money, but the idea of a movie that makes you feel something sad before allowing you to walk out of the theater feeling something good is right out of the “50/50,” and perhaps Toronto ‘11, playbook.



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-- Steven Zeitchik