People, Places, Things opens on a birthday party for two twin girls. The father, Will (Jemaine Clement), searches for his wife Charlie (Stephanie Allynne), only to find her cheating on him with another man. After an awkwardly comical exchange, their relationship ends. A year later, the pair have split custody over the children.
Will is a graphic novelist, an occupation which is revealed through a wonderful panning shot over a series of comics frames depicting a man in various stages of his life with the thought bubble “I just want to be alone…” It is a great shot.
In spite of the divorce, Will and Charlie have a nuanced relationship that plays out well on screen. In an early scene between them in a coffee shop, perfectly framed given the scenes reveal, they are contentious yet there is a realism to their underlying feelings.
For a role that is less zany than he is used to, Clement turns in a brilliant performance. He plays a great father and a great moping loner. The supporting roles are less noteworthy, but Allynne and Jessica Williams have strong performances as well.
The film avoids what is generally a major pitfall in films of this ilk. It doesn’t over-sentimentalize in its analysis of the human condition. It zooms in on life as a divorcee father, but it is never overwrought with emotions of loneliness or wanting. Save for certain moments, it is a more subtle look into the everyday life of this character. Where it does fall into the trap of sentimentality, it diffuses itself in natural ways that make up for it.
And it throws in some commentary on the literary merits of comics; that counts for something. The subtextual narrative told through Will’s comics is quietly fascinating.
People, Places, Things may not tread anywhere new in the romantic comedy realm, but it treads lightly enough on the well-worn ground to sneakily endear you with its comedy and strong performances.
As always, thanks for reading!
Have you seen People, Places, Things? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments!
—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)