I tend to really enjoy movies that are have a simple narrative and character driven. The reason I get attached to television shows or movie franchises is great character development, so I like seeing movies that can rely on its characters to carry the plot and switch the tone between dramatic and funny. This is exactly the case with “People, Places, Things”, and while it’s a movie that can be easily overlooked for its less than original plot, it’s worth a look for the subtle and heartfelt way with which it navigates a painful situation, while still being funny.
“People, Places, Things” follows the story of Will (Jemaine Clement), a comic-book artist who, at his twins’ 5th birthday party, goes looking for his wife Charlie (Stephanie Allynne), and finds her cheating on him with another man, Gary (Michael Chernus). The movie then picks up one year later, at the girls’ 6th birthday, and Will is a bit of a mess. He is the fun parent, but when it comes to spending more time with his daughters, it takes some adjusting. His comic-book art classes at SVA are moody at best, and it is in one of these too-honest moments that his student Kat (Jessica Williams) invites him over for dinner to meet her mom, Diane (Regina Hall). Will has to suddenly figure out how to care for other people, all while being a guy who likes being alone but hates being lonely.
Even though this “putting your life back together after a personal trauma” indie movie trope is not new, it is done in such a heartfelt and unpretentious way here that it works very well. I especially liked it because it doesn’t try to be overly sad and emotional, leaving spaces for the audience to fill in the blanks. The whole first year between Will finding out his wife was cheating on him and the point the movie actually begins is actually unseen by the audience, and we can only imagine how hard this must have been for everyone involved, which in my opinion strengthens the narrative. This concept of leaving some frames open for the audience to fill in is actually exemplified by Will for his class, and it was a smart move to kind of explain why they weren’t giving all the plot points away so easily.
Another thing I particularly enjoyed about this movie was the use of Will’s comics in between scenes. I thought it was a great interlude, and showed the audience what the character was thinking and feeling in a very subtle way, almost working as a narrator. Although the movie has a lot of touching moments, it’s also very funny. The interactions with the kids are especially good, and while it’s not a laugh out loud movie, I found myself chuckling at a number of scenes. Finally, Kat and Diane are two great characters who I wish had more screen time. Every one of their moments was good, and I found myself wishing for a spin-off just to know more about the story there.
I didn’t have many expectations for this movie, but it was a very nice surprise. The light and heartwarming way in which it dealt with serious subjects such as divorce, raising kids in two separate homes and trying to rebuild certain parts of life from scratch makes for a great experience, and one that is worth 90 minutes of your time.
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