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VOD Review: The Rest of Us

July 3, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The feature directorial debut of Canadian film producer Aisling Chin-Yee, The Rest of Us is a very solid little film that finds both drama and gentle humour in the interactions between its unique cast of female characters.

The film centres around Cami (Heather Graham), the author and illustrator behind a series of children’s books, who lives with her teenaged daughter Aster (Sophie Nélisse) in a house that she built in the country outside of Toronto following the breakup of her marriage many years prior.

But things take an unexpected turn when Cami’s ex-husband and Aster’s father dies suddenly. They drag themselves to the funeral, an event that is made more awkward by the presence of his new wife Rachel (Jodi Balfour), with whom he was having an affair while still married to Cami.

Rachel is the mother of a young daughter named Talulah (Abigail Phiowsky), a byproduct of this affair and a half-sister to Aster that she wants nothing to do with. When Rachel discovers that her husband had failed to pay his bills for the last few months of his life, she is left with no way to pay the mortgage, and ends up losing the house that she shared with him and everything in it.

With nowhere else for them to go, Cami invites Rachel and Talulah to stay with her and Aster at their house. This leads to a really interesting dynamic as Cami becomes a secondary mother figure to Talulah, while Rachel somewhat reverts back to her teenaged days, and Aster must learn to come to terms with her late father’s new family, whom she has always resented for tearing her own family apart.

Working from a nicely fleshed out screenplay by Alanna Francis, also making her feature debut, Chin-Yee does a fine job of capturing the small nuances in the relationships between the two mother-daughter duos at the heart of the story, with some twists along the way. It’s quite touching and sweet to watch an odd sort of blended family form between these two women who were ultimately both used by the same man, and their respective daughters who are forced to navigate a newfound relationship as half-sisters.

These four characters all have reasons to resent each other, but must come to forgive each other and learn to get along in order to move forward. A big part of the film’s success of course lies in the strength of the performances from its small but mighty ensemble cast. Graham is quite good here, rejuvenating her career with a solid performance that walks the line between comedy and drama, and feels like a comeback for the former Austin Powers star.

Nélisse, the breakout star of Monsieur Lazhar nearly a decade ago, continues to prove herself as one of the best young actors working in our country, believably portraying a moody teenager who is still very easy for us to sympathize with. Meanwhile, Balfour also finds a great deal of sympathy in her nuanced portrayal of a character who is initially presented as a home-wrecker, and Phiowsky proves herself to be a very promising newcomer with her sincere performance.

There are of course subplots concerning other relationships and affairs, but the focus is wisely kept on these four women and girls. While it is only eighty minutes long, The Rest of Us feels as fleshed out and complete as it needs to be to let us form a genuine connection to these characters. The result is a really enjoyable and sensitively observed character drama, that is carried by a set of four likeable and nicely textured performances from its strong female cast.

The Rest of Us is now available on a variety of digital and VOD platforms, including iTunes.

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