This understated and delightful New York-based comedy starring Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement as a guy grappling with single fatherhood is less weighty than writer/director James C. Strouse's earlier films, but there's still plenty of drama underpinning the lightheartedness.

After clever hand-drawn illustrations fill us in on Charlie's and Will's history - they met, fell in love, had twin daughters and got on with getting by - we meet five years later when they're struggling with parenthood and keeping their relationship alive.

At the twins' 5th birthday party Will (Clement) stumbles across Charlie (Stephanie Allynne) having sex with their friend, Gary (Michael Chernus).

Though Charlie still loves Will she doesn't "love her life", and, encouraged by Gary, makes some changes - largely leaving Will - and attending improvisation classes.

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We then skip a year, and find Will, a graphic artist and teacher still struggling as a single father, going so far as to tell his students, "I'm just having a bad life. It'll be over eventually."

It gets more complicated when Charlie reconsiders her relationship with Gary and needs Will to look after their twins more, and Will starts dating the mother of one of his students, literary professor Diane (Hall).

Nominated for the Sundance Grand Jury Prize, the film has plenty of smart, witty lines, and Clement is the perfect actor to give them life.

His delivery may be low-key - he almost throws his lines away - but on top of being funny he also makes them sad and true. Keeping his New Zealand identity and accent adds to his character - a bit of a lost, lonely outsider.

Not much really happens in People Places Things. Instead, it uses daily activities such as getting children (and their large cellos) to school on time, dealing with work, and the awkwardness of dating, to convey the emotional chaos in everyone's lives.

The comedy slowly morphs into a romantic comedy, and though it can't completely avoid the normal rom-com formula, Clement's performance gives it a unique edge.

It's also nice for a change to watch a romantic comedy that doesn't resort to crass humour, horrible characters, or claim to know all the answers.

Instead, what you get is a character who asks the simple question, "Can we be happy all of the time?"

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The answer will hit home with many people.

Cast:

Jemaine Clement, Regina Hall

Director:

James C Strouse

Running Time:

87 mins

Rating:

M (Offensive language, sexual references, nudity)

Verdict:

Charming, offbeat comedy.