When big-name actors ‘do’ indie, they often bring a megawatt (‘I’m big – it’s the picture that’s small’) unreality to proceedings. Not with this indie. Lynn Shelton directs Emily Blunt (‘The Devil Wears Prada’) alongside Mark Duplass and Rosemarie DeWitt, but Shelton manages to hang on to the unblinking, truthful feel of her 2009 breakthrough, ‘Humpday’. There are scenes here (it’s semi-improvised) that will have you squirming in your seat. Take the opening: a house full of Seattle liberal types in their early thirties are having a low-key party a year after their friend died. They drink beer and tell stories about what a stand-up guy he was. Mooching in the corner is the dead friend’s brother, Jack (Mark Duplass), who gets up and gives the mother of all needy, angry speeches. It’s excruciating.
Sensing an intervention is needed, Jack’s best friend, Iris (Blunt), who briefly dated his brother, packs him off to her family’s holiday home to be alone. But when he arrives, Jack finds Iris’s big sister, Hannah (DeWitt), crashing – she’s just split from her girlfriend. A bottle of tequila later and we get possibly the briefest sex scene in cinema history. Next morning, Iris shows up. It’s beautifully acted: Blunt gives an eye-openingly warm performance as Iris. Duplass does his charming, lumpy-lopey thing. As for DeWitt, I could get seriously fangirlish about her; she steals the show as Hannah – brittle but very cool, hiding everything behind her sphinx smile.
The ending is a bit of a come-down: it feels like an eleventh-hour tag-on. But Shelton and her actors get how relationships work: Jack’s grief is messier because he wasn’t close to his brother at the end; Iris and Hannah are tight, but they know how to push each other’s buttons (and can’t stop themselves). This film should come with a warning: don’t watch with a sibling. Unless you’re up for some knowing elbow-digs.