Writer/Director: Chris Kelly
Cast: Molly Shannon, Jesse Plemons, Bradley Whitford, June Squibb, Paul Dooley
90min | Comedy Drama | US
Molly Shannon and Jesse Plemons are the standouts in this comic but often uneven portrait of a family united by terminal illness. Chris Kelly’s directorial debut lays its cards on the table early on as Plemons’ gay writer David returns from New York to be with his mother in her final months in Sacramento, California. Undergoing chemo naturally brings out the worst physically and mentally for Joanne who is happily married to Norman (Bradley Whitford) a father who perversely refuses to accept his son’s sexuality. Sometimes the nature of Shannon’s suffering verges on embarrassing moments that fail to be funny and would be better off left in the dark. But Plemons and Shannon hold the comedy together as do her often hilarious parents played by June Squibb and Paul Dooley. The other characters are merely window-dressing in this often overfamiliar treatment of terminal illness, that follows in the footsteps of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl in an approach that often lacks dignity.
The opening scene is vaguely comic in describing other peoples’ crass and often inappropriate handling of death and dread disease but whether this is a subject for comic treatment is debatable. From that momen the film flashes back to the previous year marking the bittersweet homecoming of 29 year old David who is suffering a break-up and a rejection in his writing career. Joanne decides to give up chemo after some fairly explicit scenes of trauma and the two become closer in their shared tragedy. At one point there is a crude dance scene from a gay kid (J J Totah from Glee) who is totally at home with his sexuality as compared to David who is painfully shy and withdrawn about his.
Kelly’s well-crafted debut is based on his own experiences and manages some moments of authernticity and poignance amid the horror of bodily meltdown that will resonate with anyone who has experienced a life-changing condition. MT
SUNDANCE LONDON | PROGRAMME HERE