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THE REST OF US: 3 ½ STARS. “lovely testament of power of empathy & forgiveness.”    

Blended families can be complicated, messy ecosystems particularly when tragedy is involved. There are a ton of movies about divided loyalties in the face of divorce or death but “The Rest of Us,” the new Heather Graham film, now on VOD, is different. Rather than milking the relationship between first and second wives for heightened drama, it focusses on empathy and compassion.

Graham plays illustrator and author Cami, mother to Aster (Sophie Nélisse) and ex-spouse to Craig. Ten years previously he cheated on her with Rachel (Jodi Balfour), leaving his first family behind to start again with the younger woman. “She’s almost young enough to be your daughter,” says Aster. When he dies in the tub the two women have a chilly reunion at the funeral reception, which happens to be in the house Cami shared with Craig.

Days later the two women meet again and some shocking truths about Craig’s financial state arise. “He hasn’t paid the mortgage for six months,” Rachel tells Cami. “It’ll all go up for auction. The furniture, the house, everything. We can keep a few clothes and things.” Moved, Cami offers Rachel and daughter Talulah (Abigail Pniowsky) a temporary place to stay while she waits for the insurance money to come in. Rachel declines but when the house is foreclosed on, her hand is forced.

With the four living on Cami’s property secrets are revealed, tensions vented and grief and anger over the passing of the man who connects them is shared.

“The Rest of Us” has plenty of reveals. Truths are uncovered at an astounding rate but there are never fireworks, just well calibrated moments that expose the complicated dynamics of interpersonal relationships. Director Aisling Chin-Lee never overplays or rushes those moments even though the film has a scant eighty-minute running time. Instead she allows the strong performances from each of the players—particularly from Nélisse—to do the heavy emotional lifting.

Sharp writing keeps “The Rest of Us’” unusual premise from becoming too pat, even if one of the big reveals is telegraphed early on. Still, it’s a lovely testament to the power of empathy and forgiveness.

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