Other People

After last week’s double-dose of metastasizing matriarchs, the mothers just keep on dying in Chis Kelly’s Other People. Tonally, it finds a happy — well, “happy” — medium between and the expressionistic Italian import Mia Madre and the sad-guy-with-a-guitar quirk of The Hollars, though Other People‘s setup is very similar to the latter. When his mother Joanne (Molly Shannon) is diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma, struggling New York comedy writer David (Jesse Plemons) returns to his hometown of Sacramento to care for her as she succumbs to the disease over the course of a year. Meanwhile, a much colder war rages between David and his father Norman (Bradley Whitford), who has never accepted that David is gay, going so far as to revoke his college fund when he came out, and who now refuses to come upstairs to see David’s boyfriend Paul (Zach Woods) during a family trip to New York. But Joanne is neither the stoic matriarch portrayed by beloved character actress Margo Martindale in The Hollars, nor the confused old woman in Mia Madre; she’s someone whose pain and frustration with whole unfair process is right on the surface, all the more so when she loses her voice in the second half — and it all feels achingly honest. Hopefully, Shannon’s performance in Other People will be an inspiration to other actors.

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