Some of the most important – and enduring – relationships in our lives are those with our siblings. With emotions from petty to profound, our siblings connect us with our past as well as treading the pathways into the future. These emotions are on full display in Seattle filmmaker Lynn Shelton’s Your Sister’s Sister, which examines the relationship between Jack (Mark Duplass), his dead brother’s ex-girlfriend/best friend Iris (Emily Blunt) and her sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) over several days at a cabin in the San Juan Islands. It also reminded me of two other films that also provide nuanced depictions of relationships between brothers and sisters.
You Can Count on Me is a thoughtful, beautifully crafted portrait of a brother and sister who were orphaned at a young age: Sammy (Laura Linney), who lives an unremarkable life as a bank teller and lives in her childhood home with her young son; and Terry (Mark Ruffalo), a well-intentioned but aimless drifter who wanders back in town and his sister and son’s steady but hardly stable lives. It’s honest, funny, raw, and painful and features some of the most authentic dialogue you’ll see on film.
While You Can Count on Me focuses on how siblings navigate life, both as children and adults, in the absence of their parents. Parenthood examines the relationships that four siblings – Gil (Steve Martin), well-meaning but bumbling; Helen (Dianne Weist), a divorcee struggling with two wayward children; Susan (Harley Jane Kozak), at conflict with her husband about how to raise their child; and Larry (Tom Hulce), the black sheep “baby” of the family – have defined their relationships and those with their children in the shadow of their critical and caustic father, Frank (Jason Robards). Between the broad jokes and occasional slapstick comedy lie universal truths about our roles within families. The movie is boosted by a stellar supporting cast that includes Keanu Reeves, Martha Plimpton, Joaquin Phoenix, Mary Steenburgen and Rick Moranis.