In the latest installment of Through The Lens, director Chris Kelly explains the creative choices behind Other People’s opening scene.
Other People stars Molly Shannon as Joanne, a young mother undergoing treatment for late-stage cancer. Her son David (Jesse Plemmons) is a young writer who has recently gone through a break up to be with his mother during her final days. He’s back in his hometown trying to convince everyone he’s doing just fine.
Other People is a down-to-earth family drama brimming with elements of laughter and tragedy that has touched audiences since its premiere at Sundance a year ago. Writer and director Chris Kelly explains why he chose to open the film with a scene where he reveals upfront that Joanne has died. Read what he has to say:
I’ve been asked a lot why I chose to go with the opening scene that you see in the film which is where Molly’s character dies. Even as far back as when I wrote the first draft, I had that in there. People weren’t against it, but they wanted to know: is it better to not have the audience know she’s going to die but have them learn about it?
I was adamant I wanted the movie to start this way and not be a will-she or won’t-she film. I wanted the audience to know this, and it would allow them to focus on how these characters fill their lives up until that moment where she dies because the movie is autobiographical to me.
I wanted to recreate how I felt when I was going through it, which is, there comes a certain point when the person dying is at Stage Four, and they’re in the hospice when it’s very clear that there’s no other ending. I remember that suspended reality when she’s not there yet. She hasn’t passed away and you want to take advantage of every moment but you don’t know how to. There’s this looming death. It can come tomorrow or in a month, and I wanted the audience to feel that.
Tonally, the film starts with everyone sobbing around the body, and as you know, they get interrupted by that phone call. It’s a rude, abrupt but sunny moment in this otherwise very dramatic sad scene.
Throughout, I wanted the movie to shift from drama to comedy at the drop of a hat and vice versa. Starting with this scene would tell audeiences what they were in for.