Is Chris Kelly’s Other People this year’s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl?That’s the question you’ll see too many people pose based on family resemblance, though the answer is a straightforward “no.” Don’t fault them for making that leap—the internal logic is solid.
They also happen to be better movies overall (though it doesn’t take more than some actors and a camera to be better than Me and Earl and the Dying Girl).
The major difference between that film and Other People is that the latter is good and the former is execrably selfish.
Other People indulges its own narcissism, too, being the story of David Mulcahy (Jesse Plemons), a young man on the cusp of his 30s who takes a break from his urbane New York City lifestyle and his exciting career as a struggling comedian to take care of his mother, Joanne (Molly Shannon), back home in San Diego.
Joanne has leiomyosarcoma, which in her case is sort of like saying the Great Barrier Reef has started bleaching.
Her condition is advanced enough that her eldest child decides to fly cross-country to be by her side. Shannon, incidentally, plays a part in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, too, in the same way that everyone in the cast who isn’t Thomas Mann plays a part. In Other People, she’s much closer to being the literal star, and her tremendous performance establishes her as the film’s main attraction.
Joanne isn’t the center of Kelly’s story, mind you. But Kelly actually gives a shit about his protagonist’s relationships with his secondary characters.Interplay between Plemons and Shannon becomes key to the movie’s narrative.They have real familial chemistry that lets them bond on screen as we watch.You can give Kelly side-eye for making a movie about the effects cancer has on healthy people instead of people who have cancer, but you can’t call him callous.Cancer patients have stories to tell, after all, but so do their kids.By couching Other People in David’s life, Kelly has constructed a reflection of his own: He’s currently co-head writer on Saturday Night Live, a position David would kill for, and seven years ago he lost his own mother to cancer, too.