Other People

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Other People Movie Poster Image
Heartbreaking, intense drama examines toll of cancer.
  • NR
  • 2016
  • 97 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Love may not conquer all, but it can certainly see you through the worst. Compassion is a strong theme.

Positive Role Models & Representations

David is a devoted son who approaches his caretaking role selflessly and with lots of love. Joanne's love for her husband and children clearly shines through during her illness. The entire family is quite devoted to each other, even when there's some estrangement.

Violence

In one scene, a man nearly has a nervous breakdown at a grocery store; while it's not exactly violent, it's tinged with anger and despair. Discussion about suicide. A father and son argue loudly about the father's homophobia. A character with cancer is shown throwing up and in other upsetting situations.

Sex

A couple is shown, presumably naked (we see their bare chests), in bed together. Kissing. Brief scene of a man masturbating (nothing graphic/sensitive shown). Non-sexual nudity includes a patient briefly shown naked.

Language

Language includes "s--t" and "f--k."

Consumerism

Brands mentioned/seen include Rite-Aid, MacBook, and iPhone.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A man throws up after getting drunk on a date; adults get high after smoking weed/eating pot cookies; a man is shown vaping.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Other People is a heartbreaking drama about honesty, vulnerability, and grief. It's likely too intense for younger teens. It's very frank about the emotional and physical pain caused by cancer. But it also has strong messages about compassion. The character who has cancer throws up. Her tumor is shown, as are her family's moments of overwhelming heartache. Sexual nudity includes two men in bed together, their chests bare (sex is implied). Also, a patient is briefly naked in a medical context. Masturbation is implied in one scene. Expect some swearing, including "s--t" and "f--k." Characters get both drunk and high (smoking weed/eating pot cookies).

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What's the story?

In OTHER PEOPLE, David (Jesse Plemons) is working as a writer in New York City -- far from his Sacramento hometown. But when his mother, Joanne (Molly Shannon), is diagnosed with cancer, David finds himself back home, juggling a lot of complicated feelings. He's ambivalent toward his loving-but-reserved father, Norman (Bradley Whitford), who still won't accept David's homosexuality or his relationship with his boyfriend. His afraid to lose his mother. He's battling isolation -- missing NYC while back in the hometown he was so eager to leave. And he's having a crisis about his professional life, which is in a rut. And above all, David is heartbroken watching his mother deteriorate, even as Joanne struggles to retain control over her body, her spirit, and her life.

Is it any good?

This drama is a heartbreaking examination of the toll that cancer can take, especially when it's a parent who's diagnosed with the disease and her child is struggling to come to terms with it. Plemons brings the audience right into the eye of the storm with his finely tuned performance; it's tinged with real grief and deep empathy. But this is truly Shannon's movie: Joanne feels like a real person -- inspiring, affecting, tragic, funny, defiant, and angry, all in one. And the secondary story about David's relationship with his father is handled with equal sensitivity and complexity.

David's sisters are written with less complexity, though Madisen Beaty and Maude Apatow still turn in strong performances. In the end, Other People isn't really about other people; the film feels universal, with lessons for both those who've unfortunately walked the cancer journey and those who haven't.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what the characters go through in Other People. How does cancer affect every member of a family? Do the experiences depicted in the movie feel realistic? Why or why not?

  • Talk about the relationship between David and his dad. How does the film balance Norman's homophobia with his love for his son? Why is it important to see characters depicted with complications and layers?

  • How do the characters demonstrate compassion? Why is that an important character strength?

  • How are drinking and drug use portrayed? Are they glamorized at all? Why does that matter?

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