Straight filmmaker Lynn Shelton sure likes the gays. Her 2009 comedic feature “Humpday” was about a hetero bromance that went to the next level. Without giving away too much detail, “Your Sister’s Sister” is a film stocked with a variety of revelations. The movie shines a spotlight on strained sibling relationships and complicated friendships. It doesn’t offer easy answers, but it makes you laugh and cry and keeps you guessing.
“Your Sister’s Sister” was scheduled for release on Blu-ray and DVD in early November.
Gregg Shapiro: The movie opens at a memorial service where Jack (Mark Duplass), the brother of the deceased Tom, doesn’t speak well of the dead. Have you had such an experience?
Lynn Shelton: I’ve been at memorial services where people have drunk too much (laughs) and said things that made other people uncomfortable. I like the idea of introducing the character in a way that makes the audience just as uncomfortable as the other people room. But then you eventually end up rooting for him. It’s kind of like saying right at the outset, these people are flawed. But you also get in the process of his little speech that he really knew and loved his brother probably more than any of the other people in that room. He just wants him back, really, and he wants the whole person to be acknowledged, as opposed to this glorified, sanctified version.
Jack has a number of problems, including alcohol. Are you trying to send a message about drinking?
No, I really wasn’t at all. It’s a little confusing, because there is an initial talk. There is this memorial scene and there’s this talk and Iris says, “This is your intervention.” I was worried that people would think she was talking about an alcohol intervention, but it really wasn’t. It was just that he had this year where he had just been mired emotionally and he’s been acting self-destructive in general. It wasn’t so much a drugs-and-alcohol kind of intervention, it was an emotional one: “It’s time to get your head together.” It’s true, when you are in really bad depression (laughs) alcohol’s probably not going to be your best place to go.
The character of Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) is the lesbian half-sister of Jack’s best friend Iris (Emily Blunt). Why did you make Hannah a lesbian?
In that initial encounter with (her) and Jack, it definitely changes the timbre of their relationship. Sex is off the table. There’s a certain level of rapport that they can have that (they couldn’t) if they were both straight and single and on the market. I think the biggest delight about seeing the film is all the little reveals.
Your previous film “Humpday” dealt with gay subject matter, too. Do you have a gay relative or something?
(Laughs.) My stepsister is a lesbian, yes. I’ve had dear friends who are gay men and lesbians my whole life. I feel very at home in the gay community. I was an honorary lesbian when I was asked to understudy Lisa Kron of the New York theater group the Five Lesbian Brothers many years ago when I went on tour with them. I was like, “You are my family, you are my people.” And I’ve had crushes on women. I remember them asking me, “Why aren’t you a lesbian, Lynn?” (It’s because) I fell in love with this guy (laughs). I’ve always been interested in the boundaries of sexual identity. There was a time in my life where I thought everybody must be bisexual. You should be able to just fall in love with anybody.
Was this movie a way for you to comment on sisterly and female bonds?
I’m endlessly fascinated by human beings and by our relationships with the self and how the self shifts. How we have different masks that we show with different people as we try to connect, because we’re so desperate to connect with others. In “Humpday,” here are these two straight guys who really love each other and want to be bonded the way they felt that bond in college, and yet they’re straight guys so they can’t – it’s complicated for them. I find that incredibly poignant. Here are these two sisters (in “Your Sister’s Sister”) who clearly adore each other and yet they can’t quite connect because of all of the stuff in between. That breaks my heart and draws me in again and again, that subject matter.