OTHER PEOPLE (2016)
Guilt and shame are indispensable to the vast array of human experiences. We carry them in our souls even when the past has, seemingly, been exorcised. Even as winds of change buoyed by acceptance of our distinctive personalities open a pathway.
A door closes when mortal thoughts bring us grief and the uncertainty around life, for those we look up to as our anchors, becomes a brutal reality.
OTHER PEOPLE, based on writer-director Chris Kelly’s own life story, is almost caustically funny, heartfelt and an emotionally wrenching encapsulation of a point when he was hitting his 30s, grappling with career opportunities and his beloved mother’s eventual physical decay was occasioned by the Big C.
The guilt and the shame tails him since his father has not fully come to terms with his ‘coming out’ a decade earlier. His move to Sacramento from New York over the course of a year to be his mother’s dedicated caretaker is based on an instinctive, innate sense of responsibility. As the oldest son, he stands up to the reality of that urgent responsibility. As a brother, he is seen as a surrogate father figure to his sisters. These layers are so delicately, intricately carved and given such an emotional impact that the beauty of these universal relationships stand out. All this also becomes a beast of a burden for the young man at several junctures. Within this screenplay, I appreciate the nuances of modern society which just doesn’t know how to react to someone’s sense of sadness; rather ‘other people’ only have awkwardness and distance to give us. As if the one who moved back is some kind of stranger in their short-sighted mindsets.
Jesse Plemons and Molly Shannon hone their craft with realism to spare here, as the son and mother whose bond is inextricable from each other’s pleasures and pains. It’s owing to them and the incredibly commited, personal nature of extended cast members that OTHER PEOPLE becomes a study in staying put and facing adversities as an unit. But the individuality of the protagonists is particularly effective in its agency even as some outcomes are inevitable.
In these times where even perennially unwilling millennials have marked their homecoming, this compassionate work occupies a place in our hearts.
I’m glad I finally saw this gem and wrote about it since I had only heard appreciation directed towards it over the years.
THE UNFORGIVABLE (2021)
In Nora Fingscheidt’s THE UNFORGIVABLE, homecoming for the lead protagonist ( Sandra Bullock) is laden with a festering moral wound. One she chose to inflict on herself for the sake of her five year old sister twenty years ago. The prison cells have confined her. When she finally sees light of day back in civil society, she lives in a cramped, almost rundown reform home. In a mental space that gnaws at her.
Her sister, now living with all comforts and a profound vocational gift with her adoptive parents, is home. But she knows her past involves a maternal figure, a sister who doted on her, with whom she shared a home on a farm. Leafy city home to the rough and tumble of her first five years in the countryside define her.
That farmhouse is now occupied by a family unit which has converted it into a modern day haven for itself. Till the protagonist unravels her tale and the idea of a painful homecoming becomes urgent and poignant for all of them combined. Each family has a stake in the lead woman’s past. She carries shame as a burden, as a force that swept away two decades of her lifetime during which all homes and their occupants underwent transformations. Time moved on. Yet the truth skirted around the rims of justice.
Sacrifice is the abiding principle which adults adopt to give children a better life. It is recognised here in a vulnerable whole.
For me, THE UNFORGIVABLE very poignantly unravels the price of ‘freedom’ and ‘forgiveness’ for someone who was never a convict to begin with. It’s a secret she buries with her sentence. It makes us question the nature of law and order as also our claims to rehabilitate those who have served time. In fact, what is the price for forgiveness?
Watch it for its probing depth, grit and hard hitting scenes, especially the verbal showdown between Sandra Bullock, Richard Thomas, Linda Emond and Vincent D’Onofrio in the lawyer’s office and especially that significant climactic moment between Bullock and Viola Davis which turns tables on truths and half-truths. The whole fabric of the truth unravels from there. One can never forget the manner in which Bullock mouths the lines, “she was only five years old” in that moment. Or when she turns her sister’s chair around in the diner and tells her she’s about to go somewhere before surrendering to the police outside the venue. These are heartbreaking moments that will be etched in our minds.
THE UNFORGIVABLE hence becomes a difficult, emotionally wrenching tale of homecoming for her and for all the people involved.