REVIEW: Oscars nominations overlooked the emotional ‘Other People’


Other People

Michael Nied

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences celebrated another year of excellent film Tuesday by announcing the nominations for the 2017 Academy Awards.

Although the awards ceremony is renowned as one of the most prestigious in the film industry, every year the academy manages to overlook a handful of powerful releases.

One of those overlooked beauties this year is Vertical Entertainment’s “Other People.” Written and directed by Saturday Night Live alum Chris Kelly, the project unravels the final months a family has together.

Jesse Plemons takes the lead in the role of David. Nearing 30 and struggling professionally and personally, he puts life in New York City on pause and returns to his childhood home in Sacremento as his mother, played by Molly Shannon from SNL, battles a rare form of cancer.

Once home, he and his family struggle to blend their lives together under one roof. Dealing with a crumbling relationship with his boyfriend and a difficult relationship with his religious father, David projects a brave face while his mother falters.

Things get worse as Joanne opts against continuing her chemotherapy, and her family prepares for her death.

Momentary flickers of joy inject hope into the story at unexpected moments. Shannon remains a steadfast source of energy as the film progresses.

Although she’s fighting a losing battle against her disease, she is anything but a victim. Instead, she soldiers on with a smile on her face, doing sit-ups, taking walks with her son and dressing up in a bedazzled dress at the darkest of moments.

Another bright light is the youthful J.J. Totah, who delivers a laudable performance as the younger brother of David’s best friend. In a film where David and his family face off against the reality of an insurmountable illness, Totah’s bombastic character Justin carved out a small but essential role as he strutted across the screen.

Flamboyant and fearless, he serves as a counterweight to David. As much as the latter struggles to define his place in the world and even within the confines of his family, Justin boldly creates his own reality.

Opening the film at Joanne’s deathbed, it comes as no surprise that the bold matriarch loses her battle. However, a series of unexpected twists and turns creates a captivating story driven by dynamic characters and equal amounts of darkness and light.

Loosely inspired by Kelly’s personal experiences losing his mother, the film becomes all the more powerful as does the on-screen bond between Plemons and Shannon. The pair share a handful of evocative scenes together that serves as a testament for the love between a mother and her child.

“Other People” delivers a thoughtful glimpse into the final months a family has as a unit, and it does so in a tender yet honest manner. Kelly doesn’t shy away from the utter heartache of death, but he still manages to approach the sadness with some perspective. The final result is a testimony to a family’s resilience and a standout release of 2016.

Michael Nied is the entertainment reviewer for the Kent Stater, contact him at [email protected].