John Hensley doesn’t have “one of those faces“—the kind that you can’t help but think you’ve seen before even if you haven’t. So, if you come across his face and get the impression that you’ve seen it somewhere else, it’s because you have. As soon as Hensley appears on screen in the film “Peoples” (Joseph Ardery), I know that I’ve glimpsed his face before but I can’t remember from where. As it turns out, he was Gabriel Bowman in the TNT show “Witchblade;” Donny in “Campfire Stories” (Bob Cea, Andrzej Krakowski, Jeff Mazzola, 2001); and most recently Matt McNamara in the F/X show “Nip/Tuck” (which explains why he looked so familiar).
In “Peoples,” Hensley plays Oliver Anderson, a young man on the cusp of adulthood trying to figure out what to do with his life. Mr. and Mrs. Anderson (Sam Freed and Kathryn Rossetter) want him to go back to university but Oliver has other ideas. Like anyone who goes to college for one semester and decides it doesn’t feel right, Oliver just wants to hang out with his buddies Patrick (Joshua Harto) and Sorn (Billoah Greene). When his parents give him an ultimatum—take your horse-grooming job seriously and go back to school, or move out—Oliver motivates himself the best he can to get his act together.
Ardery’s film is mainly about Oliver but his friends also get their own storylines. Patrick likes Oliver’s younger sister Jessica (Kate Mara) and is en route to becoming an alcoholic. Sorn spends the summer chilling, getting laid, and doing what he can to keep his precocious, little cousin Jerome (Travis Brown) from getting into too much trouble. Patrick and Sorn’s contribution to the film’s plot is mostly a pleasure to watch, but Oliver’s situation and especially Hensley’s performance keeps the “Peoples” together. From resentfully grooming horses to innocently pursuing a fling with a nightclub dancer, Hensley brings a necessary sincerity to his character and ultimately to the film as well. “Peoples” may not be telling the most original tale, but the actors know how to get you to care about them, which is important considering how the film ends.