Kelly and Cal stars Juliette Lewis as new mom Kelly. I’ve never seen Juliette Lewis in a part like this. She’s a mom. She’s the lead. She nails it. She should be allowed to soar like this more often and not relegated to supporting roles. Beware the spoilers!
The film starts with Kelly’s six-week check up after giving birth. Her gynecologist tells her she’s healed nicely and ready for sex.
Her new baby cries all the time. She can’t deal with it. The words postpartum depression are never spoken in the film, but that seems to be an issue. Kelly and her husband Josh (Josh Hopkins) recently moved into the neighborhood. She doesn’t know anyone. He’s working too many hours. When she tells him she’s cleared for sex again, he turns on the TV.
One day she leaves the baby crying in his crib and sneaks outside for a cigarette. Cal (Jonny Weston) pokes his head over the fence, asks for a cigarette, and makes a remark about how great her tits are.
Cal is 17, in a wheelchair, and lives a couple of houses down in his parents garage. He’s horny and fixated on the idea that he can get Kelly to have sex with him.
Kelly discovers that if she takes the baby out in the stroller, he falls asleep. She walks the neighborhood, tries to connect with other mothers, and begins talking with Cal. He is the only person who seems interested in talking with her.
He lets her talk about who she used to be, before the baby turned her into an exhausted housewife. She was in a riot grrl wannabe band in high school called Wet Nap. She brings him cassette recordings of them and plays their best song, “Moist Towelette.”
Juliette Lewis wrote “Moist Towelette” and performs it. She also wrote and performs the song used in the closing credits. The rest of the soundtrack are sounds like Cyndi Lauper and Bryan Adams. It’s a good soundtrack.
Kelly spends more and more time with Cal as her relationship with Josh remains somewhere between cool and frozen. Finally her mother-in-law (Cybill Shepherd) and sister-in-law (Lucy Owen) step in. They want Kelly to get help for her depression and they begin coming by every day to help out and give Kelly a break. At first these two characters seemed like mere stereotypes, but the mother-in-law turns out to be more than that – a wise supporter of her son’s wife and marriage.
Kelly begins to find herself again. She falls in love with her baby at long last. Her relationship with her husband isn’t right yet, but she’s improving. Unfortunately, her “break time” gives her more time to visit with Cal.
Things with Cal go too far. Cal makes up a fake event about mentors for the disabled and takes Kelly to the high school gym, to a private prom just for him. He gets her to dance with him, sit on his lap. She kisses him.
Kelly scares herself with that kiss. She backs off, tries to change their relationship back to adult and teen. He resents it. She takes him a wheelbarrow full of clay and encourages him to make coil pots.
Instead he makes a life-sized nude of her and exhibits it in an art show. Kelly confronts him – he loudly calls her a cock tease at just the moment Josh looks at the statue of his wife.
Josh takes the baby and crashes at his parents house. Before Kelly can deal with that, she gets a call from Cal’s mom (Margaret Colin) and realizes that Cal is going to do something crazy. Kelly manages to talk Cal down from that potential disaster. Then she goes in search of Josh.
Kelly and Josh sit on the front porch. They talk about their mistakes and about what they need to do next. There is hope for this troubled couple.
Jonny Weston was excellent as a teenager full of hormonal longings and resentment over his injuries and physical limitations. Juliette Lewis, as I mentioned already, did a great job with this part. She proved she can carry a film on her own.
Kelly and Cal was written by Amy Lowe Starbin and directed by Jen McGowan. Originally released in 2014, it’s currently available on Netflix, Amazon Video and probably elsewhere as well.