The traditional family unit is under attack from all sides. Gay marriage, modernity, the messiness of mankind, and the internet have all worked to disarm the potency of the nuclear family unit. And it couldn’t be a more welcome change. In the new film, Your Sister’s Sister out tomorrow, director Lynn Shelton lays out what the new family unit may look like: a man, a lady, a lady’s sister. The man, in this case, is Mark Duplass, he of mumblecore andThe League fame, who plays Jack, an aimless man mourning the loss of his brother. His best friend is a lady named Iris, the former girlfriend of his brother, played by Emily Blunt. Her somewhat more troubled sister, Hannah, is played by Rosemarie DeWitt. Without giving too much away, suffice to say, Jack ends up going to Iris’ family cabin to clear his mind, but whilst there he encounters Hannah, who is dealing with her own messy breakup from her girlfriend. The two of them promptly, and drunkenly, have effective but unsatisfying sex. Iris arrives shortly thereafter. And yet, though this sounds like the stuff of melodrama, the resultant awkward positions into which the family contorts itself are never sensationalized. Instead, what emerges is a thoughtful, honest reflection of the flexibility of the modern family.
The idea of an unconventional ménage isn’t new, of course. Throughout history, households have found peculiar accommodations. In fact, not too far from where Ms. Blunt grew up in the Bloomsbury neighborhood of London, unconventionality was the norm in the early 20th century. The writer Vita Sackville-West lived there for a time with Virginia Woolf and her husband, Leonard. Ezra Pound also found a pleasant situation with a concert pianist named Olga Rudge and his wife, Dorothy Shakespear. But of late, at least cinematically, families have trended heteronormative. Any deviation from the Ma, Pa, and Child equation has been either censured or sensationalized. This might track with a more general narrowing of what family means, or it might have more to do with Hollywood’s risk–averse studio system or, because the latter tracks the former in endless focus groups, it’s a recursive restriction.
Emily Blunt, Rosemarie Dewitt, and Lynn Shelton Discuss The Modern Family