“Other People” (2016)
Film was reviewed at the Savannah Film Festival screening.
We first see three older children laying on a bed with their father on the floor with his head leaning against the bed, as the mom (Molly Shannon) is on the left side of the bed laying still. The husband (Bradley Whitford) is crying out that she is gone. The kids all react with crying as they reach to find each other’s hands. They lay there continuing to sob as the phone rings in the background. No one responds to the phone; they continue to wail as the answering machine picks up. A female voice starts to leave a rambling message on how she just heard that Joanne was sick, and she hopes she is feeling better. As the woman bathers on, we realize she is making this phone call from a fast food drive thru window. She interrupts the call to make an order, which we hear in full detail.
We cut to the previous year. The family is gathering to celebrate the New Year. David (Jesse Plemons) is moving uncomfortably from one interaction with a relative to another as he makes his way through the house. They all make jokes about David being now from the big city and that “don’t forget the little people on your way to the top.” He has to continually explain that his network pilot did not get picked up. They all respond that it’s for the best as he is needed back home to help take care of his mom. As family members gather around to sing and dance, David moves upstairs to check on his mom, Jeanne. She is getting ready for the party in front of a mirror. It is evident from the quick and witty banter that they get along extremely well.
Jeanne makes an appearance at the party, and it is very apparent that she is the center of this world. David has to constantly answer questions about his boyfriend, Paul, and from his hesitation and stock answers, it’s pretty obvious that there is a problem with their relationship. David hides upstairs, chewing on his fingernails. His father, climbing the stairs to go to a bedroom, quickly inquires if everything is ok, but it’s tense between the two and both don’t want the conversation to linger. Finally, much to the relief of David, the New Year has at last arrived, as family and friend’s countdown the last seconds.
Based on his own real life struggles to deal with his mother’s death to cancer, writer/director Chris Kelly gives us a moving and sometimes hilarious look at the last year of a life that is dying of cancer. The title of the film comes from David explaining that this “only happens to other people” and his friend saying, “now you’re other people.” As we travel through the year, we go through the trials and tribulations of a family dealing with such a dramatic event. The film is seen through the eyes of David, a comedy writer. Who right after college found fame, success and love; but now has hit a dead end in both his professional and personal life. Having broken up with his longtime boyfriend and currently living in what he feels is a deeply oppressed community (at least toward gays), David is feeling extremely alone, and the only one that he can communicate within his family is dying. David continually puts up a front that everything is fine with himself, while the truth is he is barely hanging on. Kelly has a nice light touch with dialogue, making it feel real, especially those quiet moments between David and his mom. He also builds tension within his film. As the relationship between David and his father continues to fester below the surface, as both refuse to confront the problems they have with each other. Until near the end of the film when the relationship finally blows up.
While Molly Shannon is fantastic while giving a moving performance as the woman fighting not only to stay alive, but to keep her family together against the odds, this is a Jesse Plemons film. Plemons is the center of the film; its heartbeat in a brilliantly understated way. Whether it’s his body language of silently shrinking away from his dad or his nervous habits of biting his nails or moving his hair from his face, these small slices of life that give us more insight into his character than any dialogue could. Plemons is best when he shares scenes with Shannon. It’s those moments we see David’s struggle to stay strong for his mom, while his world is crumbling before his eyes. His subtle reactions to his mom barely being able to do a sit-up, to him having to pick-up his nude mother off the bathroom floor after she has fallen which makes this film so touching. He is willing to give Shannon the big moments, making an enormous emotional impact from a light, slight presence that he gives, putting all the spotlight on her in their time together.
With just the right enough amount of comedy to balance the heartbreak, “Other People” is a film that will have you thinking about your relationships with your family and friends. Horrible things that cancer can break families apart but sometimes, just maybe, they can also bring people together to explore what is paramount to them. My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
For more information on the Savannah Film Festival go to www.filmfest.scad.edu
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