Jack (played by Mark Duplass) is an ordinary, unassuming twenty-something guy who lives in Washington State. He is trying to piece his shattered life back together since his brother, Tom, died a year ago. To commemorate the first year since Tom’s passing, Jack reluctantly attends a wake with all Tom’s friends and his ex-girlfriend, Iris (by Emily Blunt). Everyone is reminiscing fondly about Tom, but Jack is clearly struggling with his brother’s loss and is not particularly sociable. As well as being Tom’s ex-girlfriend, Iris is also Jack’s best friend. She sees his anguish and suggests he takes some “time out” at her father’s remote bush cabin up-state, where he can chill out for a few days far away from work and all the trappings of modern life, which might help him get himself back on the right track. Jack is hesitant, but as Iris is so insistent he takes her up on the offer and sets off on his pushbike to the cabin. When he eventually arrives there, he is surprised that someone else is already there – it’s Iris’ sister, Hannah, who is at the cabin for her own “time out”. Neither is impressed to see the other and as it is now dark, Jack must stay overnight to get some rest before returning to town on his pushbike in the morning. This is not what was supposed to happen … how will Jack find the space he needs to get back on track and work through his grief?
This film is really lovely – and that comes as a surprise. At first, it plays as an “almost rom-com” with Iris, Jack and Hanna, where the relationships are ambiguous enough that a viewer can make assumptions about what may happen. But – don’t be put off by this, stick with it – the treasure of this movie gradually shows itself as the personalities develop, the plot thickens and we start to learn about the motivation of each of these people. We gradually learn more about Jack, Hannah and Iris and the relationship each of them has with the others, which all start off relatively straight-forward, but become complex as some curly moral dilemma’s arise. The performances are really honest and I understand that Lynn Shelton encouraged each actor to improvise much of their dialogue in the scenes – that is really done marvellously well. As Jack, Mark Duplass brings a fabulous vulnerability to the character and this is endearing. The sisters are very well cast – their appearance and family foibles are well done and they interact very nicely together. Emily Blunt is strong here and Rosemary DeWitt is fantastic – best, I think. These three balance very well on screen. The movie is almost too long, but when the ending comes it’s completely appropriate. It’s good.
Made in 2011. Directed by Lynn Shelton