Moving to a new town or having a baby are both life-changing events, but doing them both in quick succession can be pretty discombobulating. For Kelly (Juliette Lewis), enduring this transition is only made more difficult by the fact that her husband and his family fail to acknowledge that she faces a challenge. Day after day she wakes up to a crying baby, a sexless marriage, a disconnected husband, and social isolation. She remembers being a person who once had friends and interests of her own, even a marginally successful stint in a punk band, but that identity seems unreachable, a thing of the past. It’s no wonder then, that Kelly finds solace in the first sympathetic soul she meets. The fact that he’s a teenage boy named Cal (Jonny Weston) is not a huge deterrent.
Admittedly, Kelly is put off when Cal’s head pops over her backyard fence and he confesses to watching her through the windows. She dismisses him with a wave of the hand and returns to her own lonely thoughts. But then she notices that Cal is in a wheelchair and realizes that in a weird teenage boy kind of way he was just trying to pay her a compliment. The next time she sees him, she offers an apology and they begin to talk. Like Kelly, Cal used to be someone. He had a girlfriend and a bright future in the arts, and then, suddenly, he was paralyzed, relegated to a wheelchair, and demoted to a lesser version of himself. His mother (Margaret Colin) refuses to install wheelchair ramps on the grounds that they will diminish the value of their home, and anyway, he’ll probably be walking again soon. It makes sense that these two outsiders would identify with one another, and though the age/gender gap can lead to a variety of misunderstandings and awkward exchanges, it is friendship that draws them back together.
Sadly, just at the point when Kelly is beginning to reclaim her identity, her in-laws decide something is wrong. No, it’s not the depressive days spent wearing a vomity old sweatshirt while cooped up with a baby that alarms them, it’s her showing up to a family barbecue with blue hair. Kelly’s mother and sister in-law (Cybill Shepherd and Lucy Owen) then stage something along the lines of an intervention. They help Kelly with a “mom makeover” and visit with pastries every week. They encourage her to volunteer or visit friends while they watch the baby, but…what? Kelly doesn’t have girlfriends any more, and she was just sitting there with blue hair when they suddenly told her to go volunteer. And so, Kelly goes to see Cal, which vaguely covers visiting, volunteering with the disabled, and teen mentoring all at once.
While it’s clear that Kelly and Cal need one another at this particular rough patch in their lives, questions of appropriateness emerge when the two begin lying about the nature of their relationship, and, you know, when Kelly shows Cal her boobs. In context neither is doing anything wrong, but the fact remains that there are a lot of things wrong with the context: a married woman, a high school student, depression, self-esteem issues, clueless family members…Every normal avenue of support has failed them, and now it seems that the comfort they found in one another is causing a whole new set of problems. Poignant, funny, and bittersweet, Kelly & Cal is a touching look at being lost and found bolstered by authentic performances from Juliette Lewis and Jonny Weston.