David (Jesse Plemons), a TV script writer living in New York City, returns to Sacramento in order to help take care of his mother, Joanne (Molly Shannon), who has been diagnosed with cancer. Currently unemployed after one of his TV pilot scripts wasn’t picked up, David struggles to live with his family where his dad (Bradley Whitford) is still uncomfortable with him being openly gay and he barely speaks to his sisters. All the while his five year relationship with his boyfriend Paul (Zach Woods) has just come to an end and he’s struggling with his mother’s illness and everything at once without drowning.
Jesse Plemons (“Black Mass,” “Fargo”) has really blossomed as an actor and “Other People” allows him to take center stage and really allow his talent to show. Plemons portrays David as talented, but frustrated by his lot in life, thinking that this stuff only happened to other people, but it’s reality now that it’s happening to him. He struggles but never falters in taking care of his sick mother, who is slowly deteriorating after stopping chemotherapy. The vulnerability as well as the stubborn resolve shows in his performance.
Molly Shannon is a nice surprise. She has a history of playing similar characters or having more minor roles in films, but as Joanne, Shannon shows strength and an ability to really take on a hard role head on. She’s fantastic and she and Plemons have great mother/son chemistry.
“Other People” goes through the entire year of Joanne’s illness and serves as a glass window in intimate moments between all the characters and especially David’s journey from distant son to someone working to make things right. The film is filled with bits of humor, even in the wake of certain death and director and writer Chris Kelly does well to balance both very well, resulting in a film that’s both heart-wrenching and strikingly funny without going overboard with either. The cast performances are wonderful and there’s a vulnerability and simplicity to the story that really allows it to break through. “Other People” is an enjoyable family dramedy that allows its lead cast to drive the story.