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Jesse Plemons and Molly Shannon in 'Other People' (Photo: Brian Burgoyne)

And so we’ve finished our first 24 hours at the Sundance Film Festival. I’m someone who’s attended six San Diego Comic-Cons, so I’m used to the mad rush for panels and screenings. But this festival is a whole different animal. Set against a backdrop of Park City, Utah, with its ski resorts and snow-capped vistas, it all seems marvelously quaint and idyllic. Sundance is where high-wattage celebrities like Daniel Radcliffe, bundled up from the January cold, blend into the crowds charging up the town’s main street.

The first film we saw in this year’s festival was Other People, written and directed by Saturday Night Live writer Chris Kelly. While the film doesn’t tread new territory—movies about urban sophisticates who return to their Middle American hometowns to deal with family drama are a dime a dozen—Other People is notable for its wonderful performances. It stars Friday Night LightsJesse Plemons as a New York-based gay comedy writer who puts his career on semi-hold to head back to Sacramento to care for his mother (Molly Shannon), who has been diagnosed with a rare form of terminal cancer.

Did we mention that this was a comedy? Writer-director Kelly deftly handles the shifts in tone from triple-hanky drama and sharply observed character scenes to gut-busting humor. The film, and in particular Molly Shannon’s anguished yet dignified performance, left the audience sobbing at the screening I attended, but there were as many laughs as sniffles in the crowd. Shannon, best known for her broad impressions on SNL, has even earned some early Oscar buzz here at the festival, and she received massive applause when she took a curtain call after the screening. Keep her and this film on your 2017 awards season radar, folks.

We’re on our way to our next screening, so we’ll have more reports from the festival soon. Stay tuned.

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By Kevin Wicks
Kevin Wicks is the founding editor of Anglophenia.