Do you like to sit alone in the dark and cry your eyes out for minutes and minutes on end? Like, while the credits are rolling, do you like to still be crying your eyes out? If so, this is the perfect movie for you. Or I’m just really sensitive. Whatever.
Other People is the first feature to be written and directed by Chris Kelly (current Saturday Night Live head-writer) so you’d be forgiven for assuming – as I did – that the movie was more of a straight-up comedy. Thankfully, Other People is a lot deeper than it may appear and is a truly rewarding dramatic experience, with some down-to-earth humor injected throughout.
David (an incredible Jesse Plemons of Friday Night Lights fame) is a gay twenty-something who is struggling with his writing, is recently broken-up from his boyfriend and decides to move back into his family home, where his mother Joanne (an equally impressive Molly Shannon) is fighting a losing battle against cancer. Also living in the home are his two younger sisters and his conservative father who has never accepted David’s sexuality.
From the very first frame we are aware of what we’re in for as the movie starts with Joanne on her death bed, and then rewinds to show us (roughly) the final year of her life. A different movie would have kept her death a surprise that comes during the emotional climax of the film, but it is refreshing that we are never given false hope that Joanne might recover. This provides the audience with the knowledge that we have to enjoy every second of her life, because we know it is soon coming to an end. The movie’s characters know this, too, though neither they nor we know exactly when it will come. Ultimately, that’s not what the movie is about. It’s about making the most out of what little time we do have on this Earth, and likewise Kelly makes the most out of every second of the movie’s 90 minute runtime.
Every moment of Other People feels like it is real, like it could and probably has happened before. The relationship between David and Joanne is so wonderfully developed and we are given a lot of time to spend with them in moments that are alternately funny, sad or quiet – sometimes all three at once. Joanne is a mother who just wants to know that her children will be okay when she is gone and David is a son who, likewise, just wants his mother to know he will be okay once she is gone. It’s a bond that is deep and real, and it’s a real treat to see it on screen.
The cast across the board does a phenomenal job. Jesse Plemons is hilarious and soul-crushing, often switching between the two on a dime. If this isn’t a breakout performance, I don’t know what is. Molly Shannon has years of her experience under her belt, but this is without a doubt the best she has ever been. She is hilarious as always but what is most impressive is the wide range of emotions she is able to convey, often silently as Joanne tries desperately to keep her fear and sadness hidden from her children. Both of these actors are seriously deserving of attention come award season.
Funny, raw and packing a serious emotional-punch, Other People is a must see for anyone and everyone. If you give it a chance I highly doubt you will regret it. Just make sure to sneak in a box or two of Kleenex (not a paid endorsement I promise) and sit where you can weep without judgment.