Sisters in Crisis: Your Sister's Sister and Union Square

by Melissa Silverstein
September 15, 2011 1:45 AM
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My time in Toronto was spent trying to seek out as many women directed films as I could. Two of my favorites from the past week are films about sisters.

First up was Lynn Shelton's Your Sister's Sister. The film is the story of Iris and Hannah played by Emily Blunt and Rosemary DeWitt respectively and Jack, the male best friend of Iris played by Marc Duplass. Jack is a mess, his brother who had dated Iris has been dead for a year and he still cannot pull himself out of his grief. Iris stages an intervention and sends him to her father's cabin outside Seattle not knowing that her sister is there having just left her girlfriend of 7 years.

Jack and Hannah have never met before but of course have heard a lot about each other from Iris. Both are really sad and lonely. After a night of a lot of tequila, sister and sister's best friend wind up in bed together and everything takes off from there. There are many hurt feelings, some seriously fucked up subterfuge, but mostly it's just a bunch of people struggling to find their way in the world.

The thing that I love about Shelton is that she doesn't give her actors completed scripts. There is a lot of improvisation in her films. It might not work for all directors but it sure works for Shelton. The actors create the movie with her and she has another success here as she did with Humpday. I just like how comfortable everyone feels in her films. It felt like we were eavesdropping on a weekend and then life would continue.

A different set of sisters in crisis are on display in Nancy Savoca's long awaited return - Union Square. Mira Sorvino plays Lucy a hot mess of a woman who seems bizarrely out of control for an adult. She's one of those characters that when you see her first on screen you hate her, she wears completely inappropriate clothes for someone her age and causes scenes all over the place. She winds up on the doorstep of her estranged sister Jenny who is her complete opposite. Where Lucy is a whirlwind, Jenny is restrained. You can see immediately why they don't get along. Lucy is everything Jenny is running from. But as Jenny ran from her upbringing, she ran from herself and Lucy reminds her of who she really is.

The movie says no matter how much you separate yourself from your family and upbringing, they are still with you and you better deal with it. Tammy Blanchard gives a very quiet and beautiful performance as Jenny. It's so hard to play opposite a person who is out of control and grasping for ways to hang on. But Blanchard sticks with it and you understand some of the decisions she made, but also how she has cut off a piece of herself in the process.

It takes a couple of minutes to get used to the over the top performance of Sorvino, but she does suck you in. I came out of the film really liking it.

Your Sister's Sister just got picked up for release in 2012. No word yet on Union Square.

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