Only a mere matter of moments after Bill Hader’s Milo perfectly – and hilariously – lip-sync’s to Starship’s Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now in Craig Johnson’s The Skeleton Twins, the troubled thirty-something can be seen standing at the top of a high-rise building, contemplating suicide. This short sequence of events perfectly encapsulates what makes this filmmaker’s sophomore endeavour so special – as he seamlessly juggles joviality with poignancy, and comedy with pathos – to make for one of the stand-out indie productions of the year.

The film opens with Milo’s first suicide attempt, as he cuts his wrists when alone, and inebriated at home. Rescued, thankfully, he is omitted to hospital, only to be visited by his estranged twin sister Maggie (Kristen Wiig), who he hadn’t seen for over a decade. She too was on the verge of killing herself that day, and so in a desperate attempt to improve both of their fortunes, she invites Milo to stay with her and husband Lance (Luke Wilson) to help him get back on his feet. While the pair reflect on a tumultuous upbringing, they seek in repairing their broken relationship, while Milo decides to get back in touch with an old flame, and ex-teacher, Rich (Ty Burrell).

Though wildly comedic at times, the picture is persistently grounded by the profound undercurrent of suicide, which runs the entire way through this, adding a sense of volatility to proceedings. Especially where Maggie is concerned. With Milo, the natural protagonist and entry point into this world, we appreciate he made a mistake and was drunk, melancholic and feeling melodramatic – whereas we have less control over Maggie’s thoughts, and while on the surface she appears as the more “normal”, happier twin, we know everything is not all as it seems. Though predominantly a gentle piece, the intensity that derives from our unstable protagonists does make you feel on edge in parts, as, much like the scene mentioned in the introduction – when things are looking up, and people appear to be content, you just always feel that at any given second they could be driven to the brink.

Hader is exceptional in the role, playing it with such sincerity. Milo is inherently quite camp, and the actor embellishes that at times for comedic effect, and yet never feels like a parody, always remaining so subtle in his conviction. Such a notion extends across the cast, as all of the characters feel a part of this heightened take on reality, playing up to stereotype accordingly, yet never losing sight of the naturalistic approach, always feeling authentic in their depiction – with Wilson’s Lance, your archetypal bloke, and “Mr. Pro-America” another fine example.

What helps enormously, particularly in decorating this already inventive screenplay, is just how well these performers can act. To strike that balance between comedy and drama is no easy task, but when you have talent such as Hader and Wiig involved, it makes that somewhat daunting challenge seem all that more accomplishable.