There are different ways for a writer to tell a story while tapping into their own personal catharsis. Chris Kelly (co-writer of Saturday Night Live and Broad City making his feature filmmaking debut) has found a vessel in Other People to tell his own semi-autobiographical story by re-capturing snapshots of his ailing mother’s final months.
While the film’s backbone is built around Kelly’s mother-son relationship (with Breaking Bad’s Jesse Plemons as television writer David and Molly Shannon as his cancer-stricken mom Joanne), Other People features sharp observational humour and heartbreaking truths that often surround a family crisis when one returns to their childhood homestead. David runs into classmates who don’t entirely know how to react to emotional news, and he deals with outsider stubbornness towards his career and homosexuality. He, too, also feels like a stranger when he experiences repetition nobody else picks up on (Train’s ‘Drops of Jupiter’ frequents the radio airwaves and David’s own perception of the city’s mediocrity until the song becomes something more).
Other People is a sublime and bittersweet blend of tragedy and comedy. Big laughs separate the film’s more sombre moments chronicling Joanne’s difficulties with chemotherapy and the time that follows after she refuses the treatment. Plemons – continuing to impress from his choice of roles – is excellent as a labouring writer who is trying to keep it together, and SNL alumna Molly Shannon gives an award-worthy and well-rounded performance.
Bradley Whitford, Madisen Beaty, and Maude Apatow are superb as family members experiencing their own interpretations of grief, and smaller parts played by Paul Dooley, June Squibb, Kerri Kenney, Matt Walsh, and J.J. Totah add different angles that stabilize a bigger picture.
Catch Other People at Toronto’s Inside Out LGBT Film Festival on:
Friday, May 26 at 8:00 p.m. @ TIFF Bell Lightbox
Click here for more festival details and to buy tickets.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie