“Mr Henry, are you OK?” asks concerned student Kate. “Yeah I’m fine”, her teacher manages, “I’m just having a bad life… it’ll be over eventually”.
Will Henry is lost. Working as an illustrator and teacher, he’s hardly making enough kibble to survive in Astoria, New York, and after his marriage crumbles he’s hardly scraping together the emotional fortitude to continue looking after his twin daughters. He’s lonely. He’s depressed. But most importantly he’s in a despondent place that most of us have found ourselves in at least once in our lives.
Though writer-director Jim Strouse is undoubtedly the mastermind behind People Places Things, the essential element is undoubtedly Jemaine Clement who, in retaining his affable Kiwi accent and droll delivery applies a new layer of melancholy to his portrayal of single dad Will Henry. It’s a good thing too, since that is essentially all this film is about. Indeed, it’ super familiar narrative territory and there are some exhausting cliches that rear their heads occasionally (seriously can protagonists stop finding out about their partners’ affairs by walking in on them mid-coitus? Does that actually happen?) but the casting gets this film across the line.
The Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams is outstanding as cynical yet talented Kat and her mother’s casting in Regina Hall is a stroke of genius, despite the fact that she looks fresh faced enough to be her sister. We last saw Stephanie Allynne in Tig Notaro’s documentary Tig (she’s now engaged to the comedian) and she’s a welcome addition here too, lending some warmth to a deeply confused ex-wife to Will. And the two little smoosh faces that play his twin daughters- don’t even get me started…
It’s nice to see more of Clement on our screens again. This one is worth your $20 ticket.
People, Places, Things is screening now in select Australian cinemas.