Morgan Yardley is an exterminator -- or a "death doula for animals," as she calls herself. Cheerful and positive, she's content with the quirky life she's built for herself, down to the sex with her deadbeat ex every few weeks.
But when Morgan's father passes away unexpectedly, she discovers he's had a secret second family for years. He even named his other daughter Morgan, who seems to be a better version of her. And for the first time, the first Morgan begins to question the life she chose for herself.
Written and directed by Alison Rich -- who also stars as the first Morgan -- this charming, heartfelt comedy leans on the main character and filmmaking's quirkiness and the development of its narrative premise to generate interest. But as it unfolds, it reveals a surprising emotional wellspring, one that tugs at the way contentment, self-acceptance and self-compassion are intertwined.
The opening scene between Morgan and the vainglorious pop star who reinvented herself from their shared humble origins is long for a short film. But that opening does the work of establishing the foundation of Morgan's personality. The situation of meeting re-encountering someone from high school who's become successful --- while you have a so-called smaller life -- could put anyone in a tailspin. And the pop star -- played with glorious condescension by actor Chloe Wepper -- does her best to establish her superiority. But Morgan carries on, with her quirky way of being and doing things and an oddly radiant sense of sunniness. She likes herself and her life, and as an actor, writer-director Alison Rich carries off Morgan's innately sturdy happiness with conviction and charm.
The film then seems to swerve into more unexpected territory, as Morgan encounters the other Morgan. Played with a perfect blend of arch wit and neuroticism by comedy veteran Mary Holland, the other Morgan sends the first into a downward spiral. That idiosyncratic confidence we saw so beautifully developed in the first scene now unravels, with the first Morgan comparing herself to the other Morgan. She starts with a deep dive into her new rival's Instagram and ends in a spiral of shame and self-loathing that sets Morgan on a potentially destructive path.
The real skill of Rich's storytelling is revealed when the two disparate narrative strands unexpectedly converge, adding surprisingly layers of character and emotion. But the lasting resonance of "The Other Morgan" is the big heart underneath its sometimes exaggerated comic touches. The ending is a genuinely soulful moment of empathy and reflection. And it offers a message we call can relate to, especially in an age where we can constantly compare our lives and selves via the carefully curated windows of social media. Morgan pulls herself out of the abyss with a gift of self-acceptance. But it's one she extends to others. By accepting and being content with ourselves, we help others to do the same, wherever they are on their journeys.