How often in life do you take the time to just be with yourself? Personally, I try to make room for solo time, and attending film screenings happens to be something I enjoy doing independently.  It became evident to me that attending the screening of the 2012 SFIFF’s Centerpiece Film “Your Sister’s Sister alone was fitting, as one of the first concepts explored in the film is: the importance of taking time for oneself.

I knew absolutely nothing about this film, aside from the fact that two of it stars, Emily Blunt and Rosemary Dewitt, are two of my favorites. What I was pleasantly surprised to learn is that this fourth feature film by Lynn Shelton (whose previous work includes We Go Way Back, My Effortless Brilliance, Humpday) explores both familial and romantic relationships through a proverbial lens that captures raw human emotion in its most sincere, relatable, unpredictable and hilarious nature.

The film starts out with party being held in the honor of Mark Duplass’ character Jack’s on screen brother Tom, on the one-year anniversary of his death. The scene is somber yet joyful until Jack gives what I would describe as perhaps the most emotionally unintelligent eulogy ever. Shortly thereafter, Iris (played with utmost sincerity by Emily Blunt) who is Jack’s best friend and brother’s ex-girlfriend finds Jack standing in the hallway wallowing in his own disdain. She exclaims, “ great guacamole and amazing public speaking”. The audience laughs, and though it’s funny, the dialogue that follows highlights the enormity of Jack’s pain as well as his deep desire to move on. It is Jack’s inner struggle that serves as the springboard for plot that unfolds.

Convincing Jack to get some “alone” time in her family’s mountain cabin, Iris sends him on a solo adventure, being unaware that her beloved half sister Hannah (Rosemary Dewitt) is going through her own heartache after ending a 7 year lesbian relationship, and has too decided to escape to the same cabin. After a hilarious meet-cute, the audience witnesses the convergence of two characters, each dealing with their distinct and painful heartache, all set against the backdrop of the Pacific Northwest. So what are two heartbroken adults to do in a mountain cabin without any connection to the “real world’? Well, they drink a large amount of tequila; engage in a sexual encounter, seemingly disregarding the fact that Hannah is a lesbian.

The emotional temperature of the film goes from blue to red to every other color of the rainbow, as Iris surprises Jack and Hannah with her arrival the next day. What ensues is an exploration of hidden feelings, secrets, miscommunications and desires between sisters, brothers, friends and lovers. The dialogue in this film is so relatable and real that in a post-screening interview when Rosemary Dewitt shared that most of the dialogue in the film was improvised, I was not surprised. This film is like an emotional house of mirrors, as it explores what happens when you truly take the time to look at yourself, accept yourself, forgive yourself and love yourself as well as those who love you.

As the film came to an end and my emotional roller coaster came to a stop, I was excited to proceed to one of San Francisco’s hottest nightspots’ the CLIFT hotel for the Centerpiece After Party. Held in The Velvet Lounge of the CLIFT hotel, the event had a fun, sexy and intimate vibe. The red velvet cupcakes being served brought a hint of sweetness to an extremely chic evening in which guests sipped on delicious cocktails while toasting to a great film and dancing the night away. I personally enjoyed a dirty martini, as it’s flavor made my red velvet cupcake taste even sweeter. As I sat there in the Velvet Lounge, I could not help but wonder whether my martini and cupcake were the catalyst to discovering my takeaway from the film: you must taste the sour in order to really taste the sweet.

I would highly recommend seeing “Your Sister’s Sister” and if you have the chance to visit the CLIFT hotel for a dirty martini or a red velvet cupcake, both are equally delicious in their own unique way.

– Svetlana Saitsky