It sounds like the set up for a comedy. Ex-wife, living the peaceful life with daughter, has it all disrupted when former husband dies suddenly and, when his second wife and child are evicted from their home, takes them in. Four women, all with history and complicated relationships – the comic potential is so endless it could almost be a sit-com rather than a film. But that’s not quite what you get with The Rest Of Us.
That’s not to say that Aisling Chin-Yee’s feature debut doesn’t have its moments of humour, most of which come from the inevitably prickly relationship between artist mum Cami (Heather Graham) and teenage daughter Aster (Sophie Nelisse) or the equally inevitable awkwardness between Cami and ex-husband Craig’s second wife Rachel (Jodi Balfour), especially at the funeral. But in the main this is a low-key but affecting look at how both mother-daughter partnerships come to terms with their feelings about Craig, both in life and death, and how they let go of resentment towards people who aren’t to blame for events which, ultimately, are outside their control.
It would be too easy to paint Craig as the villain of the piece. He’s the fifth character, the one that we just see as a shadow, but he’s clearly regarded with affection by both wives and daughters, despite the devastating impact he’s had on all of their lives. For Cami, there was his infidelity with Rachel: for Rachel, it’s the discovery that his careless attitude to money has left her and their young daughter completely destitute with nowhere to go. Which is why she and her little girl, Tallulah (Abigail Pniowsky), end up living with Cami and Aster – at Cami’s invitation.
That makes her sound way too saintly, so it says something for Heather Graham’s performance that she creates a woman who’s emerged on the other side of her divorce not without scars, but with a more balanced approach to life – even if that is undermined by one particular plot twist which, in all honesty, comes as little surprise. For somebody who we usually associate with comedy, it shows that she’s equally adept at straighter roles and ones with a certain amount of depth. It’s just a shame that she, and the other three leads, are let down somewhat by a narrative that resolves the conflicts that arrive just a touch too neatly, even if they are effective.
All four give strong performances and ones of some subtlety, so that we understand their various perspectives on their complicated situation. As domestic dramas go, this is an unassuming one with its heart in the right place and one that would be all too easy to underestimate. As it is, it’s modest enough not to overplay its hand and never outstays its welcome – which, given the subject matter, is more than a little appropriate. But its emotional impact stays for longer than you might expect.
Drama, Comedy | Cert: 15 | The Movie Partnership | Digital download, 23 March 2020 | Dir. Aisling Chin-Yee | Heather Graham, Sophie Nelisse, Jodi Balfour, Abigail Pniowsky.