Darkly funny, enormously moving and wonderfully observed, writer-director Chris Kelly's "Other People" makes a fine companion piece to the recent "The Hollars," another strong, idiosyncratic, real-life-inspired film about an adult son's return home to be with his ill mother. Watching "Other People," though, may require a few more Kleenex.
The movie, which opened the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and closed this summer's Outfest Los Angeles, stars a superb Jesse Plemons as David, a struggling comedy writer whose wry, empathetic mom (Molly Shannon, also great) is dying of cancer.
Spending most of a year in Sacramento — away from New York and a kindly ex-boyfriend (Zach Woods) — David navigates loneliness, career anxiety, hometown displacement and, of course, the bonds of family. The latter includes dealing with his mother's slow and poignant fade as well as with his otherwise decent dad's (Bradley Whitford) inability to accept David's sexual orientation.
En route, there are enjoyably quirky episodes involving a visit to a dreary local gay bar, a drag number by an endearingly flamboyant tween boy (J.J. Totah), a family trip to New York for David's gig with an improv troupe, and warm bits with David's jovial grandparents (Paul Dooley, June Squibb).
Emotions run deep and wide here; anyone who's ever lost a parent, longed for love and acceptance, or tried to find his or her true self should easily relate. It's a terrific film.
Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes.