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Your Sister’s Sister is a lovely little film for a big screen, an intim­ate three-hander fea­tur­ing shift­ing rela­tion­ships, secrets revealed and a warmth and gen­er­os­ity towards its char­ac­ters that con­tin­ues to cap­tiv­ate even when it is test­ing them.

Mark Duplass’s Jack has been depressed and bit­ter since the death of his broth­er and best friend Iris (Emily Blunt) offers him her fam­ily cab­in for a few weeks so he can sort him­self out. What she doesn’t know is that her sis­ter, Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), has also chosen to use the cab­in to get over her own recent romantic breakup.

Jack’s arrival sur­prises Hannah but they both get over it fairly quickly with the help of a bottle of tequila and some alcohol-encouraged mutu­al attrac­tion. When Iris arrives the next day to check on things they agree to keep their drunk­en tryst a secret but – as they should in any well-plotted com­edy – their lies grow until they are basic­ally unsus­tain­able and push – as they say – must come to shove.

Writer-director Lynn Shelton has a knack for this sort of intim­ate dilemma-driven drama. I loved Humpday (which also fea­tured schlubby every­man Duplass) when it screened in the fest­iv­al in 2009, but this film takes her hand­made, mumble­core, impro­vised style and adds a few big screen aes­thet­ics. It actu­ally feels like an eleg­antly scrip­ted and care­fully con­struc­ted item and the only way that a largely impro­vised pro­cess can work that well is when the bones are really good to start with (apart from a fairly exten­ded but prob­ably neces­sary explan­a­tion of why Blunt has a British accent and her sis­ter doesn’t).

After a more than sev­en month wait (it premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February) loc­al audi­ences finally get to see the Sarkies broth­ers’ Two Little Boys and Robert Sarkies joins the élite group of Kiwis who have dir­ec­ted three fea­ture films. Based on broth­er Duncan’s 2008 nov­el, the film may well be the black­est com­edy ever pro­duced here.

A pair of imma­ture Invercargill flat­mates – no-confidence Nige (Bret McKenzie) and cocky Deano (Hamish Blake) – are life-long friends but have had a bit of a fall­ing out. When Nige acci­dent­ally kills a Scandinavian tour­ist with his car, Deano comes the res­cue with sev­er­al ques­tion­able plans involving body dis­pos­al, at the same time hop­ing that these attempts will reunite them and restore him to num­ber one in Nige’s affec­tions. A road trip to the Catlins with Nige’s new best mate Gav (Maaka Pohatu) might be the answer to all their prayers.

Robert Sarkies’ dir­ec­tion is even more con­fid­ent than the excel­lent Aramoana drama Out of the Blue but the film itself feels more like a product of Duncan’s twis­ted ima­gin­a­tion and sense of humour. There are plenty of moments where if good taste was ever an option it’s thrown out the win­dow and any viewer’s response is going to depend on the amount of affec­tion you can muster for these two hope­less galahs as they make tra­gic decision after tra­gic decision.

Me? I enjoyed it and a lot of the pleas­ure came from a sur­pris­ing per­form­ance by Blake, an Australian act­or who was pre­vi­ously unknown to me but who evid­ently has a large tele­vi­sion fol­low­ing. Consistently funny through­out, Blake is ably sup­por­ted by McKenzie’s affect­ingly inno­cent straight man. They make a great team.

There’s more humour­ous body dis­pos­al in Jackpot, anoth­er Scandinavian thrill­er from Jo Nesbø, author of last year’s ter­rif­ic Headhunters. Oskar (Kyrre Hellum) enters a foot­ball pool com­pet­i­tion with some co-workers and dis­cov­ers their true col­ours when a late equal­iser hands them the jack­pot. Before they can claim the huge cash prize, they insist on a few Christmas drinks. By the end of the night there are bod­ies every­where as shar­ing loses its appeal and the Tarantino-like flash­back struc­ture keeps things interesting.

There’s a whiff of early-era Tarantino to be found in the body count and the invent­ive execution(s) but it doesn’t man­age to scale those giddy heights – or the twisty level of Headhunters. To be hon­est, it’s hard to root for any of the fairly unat­tract­ive char­ac­ters which makes it hard to pay too much atten­tion – even for a tidy 90 minutes.

It’s been six years since I first picked up a pen to start pro­du­cing these columns and I’d like to take the oppor­tun­ity to thank all at the Capital Times for their sup­port and to con­grat­u­late every­one who is still read­ing me for their forti­tude. I decided very early on that I would try and cov­er everything that got released and for the most part I’ve been suc­cess­ful at that. This over­seas trip has sty­mied me, though, in ways I didn’t expect. The vagar­ies of inter­na­tion­al release strategies, com­bined with unfor­tu­nate flight tim­ing, means I will miss Resident Evil: Retribution; Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted; Ruby Sparks and On the Road – all of which open in the UK after I leave. So, instead today I watched ParaNorman at the cinema inside the Millenium Dome which I won’t end up review­ing until it hits loc­al screens in January.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 19 September, 2012.

Extra thought: This is the second week in a row in which Rosemarie DeWitt has played a woman des­per­ate to get preg­nant.