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The emotional downtrodden and grief-stricken have long been fodder for transitory characters in film, dragging us into the abyss of despair, some crawling up an out while others slip deeper into the void. With The Other Half, two such desperates collide in a sunken experience of misery that has some merits along the way, showcasing a couple of good performances in a story utterly chained to its premise.
We meet Nickie (Tom Cullen) first, a sort of a drifter with a streak of violence and quick-temper strapped with a penchant for attack rather than diplomacy. He meets Emily (Tatiana Maslany) at a bar where she steps into him to stop a confrontation in which Nickie has found himself. Despite his aggressive personality, Emily is drawn to his dark personality and troublesome presence. He too is lured into her physical beauty but more so her own pains that linger about her like an atmosphere.
She is bipolar, swinging her from long levels of stability into harrowing depths of depression, chasms where Nickie finds comfort. He is straddled by the disappearance of his brother five years earlier, the source of his fury and listless drifting from his family, with whom he steadily loses touch. The two find familiarity in their like journeys, they mismatched LEGO blocks from two different sets pressed together. Now they just need to find a way to make it through the days.
Written and directed by Joey Klein, The Other Half feels like a purposeful film, perhaps one assembled from tropes that attempts to meander from the path, most recently made popular in Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper‘s Silver Lining Playbook (2012), from which many parts of the film run parallel. That said, there is a lot that deviates, ultimately being a far less uplifting experience, sinking to much deeper depths as it clings to the sadness. There is nothing wrong with exposing these dark places in film, and indeed, there are some greatly moving moments here that feel authentic, but the message is about the inescapable, and here is where is stays.
Nick and Emily are complex character and even if they are not original, they are well-developed in the story, even if Nick feels the less effective, a bit one-dimensional and predictable, his ever-present leering and simmering anger a little obvious. Emily too falls into the trapping of the genre, bouncing about in moments of giddy I-will-save-you flourishes even while the film does a good job layering her condition in tragic corners of genuine ache. Both Cullen and Maslany are very good.
Klien makes it his intent to remain in these people’s detached misery, yet isn’t content with letting the characters carry that weight, rather hiding them in long shadows and extreme low-light, whispering to each other in near silence at times as they circuitously travel along their imbalanced path. There are moments of joy in their lives, even ones well-earned, but unshackling the sorrow for both them and the viewer becomes almost unbearable and while that does have intended effects, it can makes for a difficult watch.
The Other Half is a deeply personal film, intimately tragic and unrelenting in its choices. That does not make it unworthy. This is a human story wrought with all that comes to define being such, even as it oppressively reminds us so.
Movie description: The Other Half is a 2017 romantic drama about a bipolar woman and a troubled man who struggle try to find some hope in their lives.
Director(s): Joey Klein
Actor(s): Tatiana Maslany, Tom Cullen, Diana Bentley
Genre: Drama, Romance