Liz Hinlein’s Other People’s Children is built on lukewarm confrontations — and it presents the Urban Outfitters version of homelessness.
Samantha Trassler (Diane Marshall-Green) is an aspiring filmmaker and the daughter of a famously temperamental, recently deceased artist. One day, she encounters P.K. (Chad Michael Murray), a homeless man, and falls in with him and his crowd, filming them and finding inspiration for her art. P.K. is buff, his beard is fashionably unkempt, and his friends all appear to be only the tiniest bit unclean. Often, fights break out: between P.K. and his friends, between Samantha and her friends, and ultimately between Samantha and P.K.
But nothing ever feels like it’s at stake — the drama here is whisper-thin. Many of the visual flourishes are ripped straight from an indie-film guidebook, from Samantha’s early moment of throwing up to her cheesy sex scene with P.K. filled with discordant wind chimes and lens flares. There’s the potential for an interesting story at this film’s heart — the questions of dealing with family legacy and the father-daughter dynamic — but Samantha’s father, seen in flashback, is a typical example of a hard-drinking, angry painter, and Samantha’s relationship with the homeless community is left frustratingly unexplored. The filmmakers probe no issues of class or privilege, and the revelation of the ultimate truth about P.K. proves to be a cheap and predictable shot.
In the film’s best passage, one of the homeless girls, seemingly tough yet pixieish, speaks about her family before Samantha’s camera and starts to cry. For a moment, genuine emotion flickers in her eyes, and we sense there’s a story there. It’s a shame Other People’s Children doesn’t really tell it.
Other People’s Children
Directed by Liz Hinlein
Opens January 1, Village East Cinema
Available on demand