A drama at heart, with slight comedic undertones, The Skeleton Twins follows the conciliation of its titular twins: stunted wife Maggie (Kristen Wiig) and her sarcastic, gay bachelor of a brother, Milo (Bill Hader). When Milo’s suicide fails to finish the job, thus inadvertently causing Maggie not to follow up with her own attempt on the same day, estranged brother and sister reconnect after ten long years of silence. For his own sake, Milo moves in with Maggie and her upbeat, happy-go-lucky husband, Lance (Luke Wilson). As the twins are confronted by their lives, they seek to understand how everything went so wrong, and what their relationship with each other has to do with all that.

Where films (and most of us, for that matter) fear to tread, this film goes boldly and courageously, almost with emphatic anticipation. Suicide and the questionability of living are never easy topics to discuss openly, even for the most seasoned philosophers, let alone for films. But The Skeleton Twins manages to pull together a wonderfully simple answer that, while not entirely revelatory, is emotionally gratifying and filled with human depth.

One of the greatest assets of this film is its very original screenplay and excellent writing. In a somewhat rather minimalistic plot, the focus lies directly on the personal development of Maggie and Milo and, even more importantly, their relationship. The entire writing plays on the small hope we have for change, the way that we hope to change ourselves and our lives for the better, as mirrored by Maggie and Milo. And it is so very cleverly portrayed, tucked away in the simplicity of immature jokes, harsh words, and little affections, that makes it seems to resonate all the more.

With that being said, the excellent screenplay cannot completely account for its uninspiring cinematography, which is somewhat of a distraction from the main picture. And even its screenplay cannot be said to be entirely perfect; the emotional turbulence of this film is, at times, confusing and overwhelming, trying too hard to elicit bipolar emotions. And its grand finale seems a tad rushed, giving an ending that leaves something more to be desired from such an effective escalation of the conflict in the climax.

But where the writing does not live up to its full potential, the film is preceded by amazingly powerful performances by Wiig and Hader. Their portrayals are filled with depth of feeling, wonderfully honest and boasting with subtle intricacies. Not to mention their chemistry is electrifying, both for the film in general, but also for the audience, who is emotionally infected by their revelry. And the beautiful interactions between Wiig and Hader centers the premise of the film not so much on the individual siblings (fascinating as they are), but on their relationship to each other—the bond between brother and sister—that is at the heart of this story.

At the end of the day, The Skeleton Twins is an unexpected gem, a tenderly heartfelt story, and a delight to watch.

The Skeleton Twins is currently playing at the Princeton Garden Theatre and in select theaters across the country.

Verdict: ???½ (out of five)

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