San Diego International Film Festival presents Opening Night Film ‘Other People’: Never a Straight Line

other_people

Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Chris Kelly

Studio: Park Pictures

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

A flailing comedy writer with troubles of his own, returns home to his estranged family, to care for his mother who is dying of cancer.

Told over the course of a year, the story is far from unique, and that seems to be the entire point. David (Jesse Plemons) and his angst over the loss of his long-term boyfriend, his fathers refusal to acknowledge his sons gayness, and his everlasting sorrow at his moms cancer eating her alive, could be any of us. Through the year-long journey of watching his mom be devoured by the ugliness that is cancer, David reconnects with past loves, forms new relationships, and in general flounders on a sea of barely restrained emotion, adrift and sad. Plemons, perhaps best known by me in his short role on Breaking Bad, does an excellent job in this role of simple humanity attempting to connect with others before the end.

And what about mom and her end? Joanne (Molly Shannon) was an elementary school teacher and adored her job, loving all her children with kind understanding, and of course was especially close to her closeted and sensitive gay son. Then suddenly she’s diagnosed with that word everyone these days is absolutely terrified of hearing, “cancer”, along with other equally horrific words like “alternate treatments”, “stage four” and everyone’s favorite, “terminal”. More or less the glue that holds the semi-dysfunctional family together, very like out in the real world, the idea that mom won’t be around much longer brings everyone back together, frantic to be sure to spend her last time on this earth together, no matter how awkward and painful that may be.

Because hey, dad Norman (Bradley Whitford) still hasn’t accepted or even really acknowledged his sons homosexuality, even though everyone else seems to have. David attempts to date or at least make some new gay friends, because everyone needs a totally fabulous darling escape from harsh reality, and ends up integrating his new friends and family for holiday time, in a hilarious respite that even has mom smiling. And by this time, boy could she use the smiles, because that cancer is a murderous bitch.

We know how the movie will end, in literal tears and lamentations, because that was how the movie started. But we can’t think of the plot in any kind of straight line (okay that was a horrible gay joke, pardon me), because as we endure the months of debilitating chemotherapy, bluntly brutal conversations about funeral arrangements and the literal sight of mom wasting away, we see the tendrils of her and her extended families lives reach out and affect others. That’s where we get the title of the movie as I saw it, the lasting legacy that the life of Joanne and her family and how they affected, even a little, Other People.

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