‘Good Grief’ review: From mourning comes the morning

A weekend getaway in Paris sheds light on grief, friendship, and some hard truths.

Halfway through the film, newly widowed Marc (Dan Levy) goes on a walk with his “could be someone” Theo (Arnaud Valois) on the cold streets of Paris. The dawn had set in after a night of karaoke, and mid-conversation Theo stops in front of a double door. He mutters something in French that allows the lone nightguard to let them in.

A wide panorama of “The Japanese Footbridge” by Claude Monet greets them in the next scene. “We are standing in a house of loss,” shares Theo. They walk side by side, the space of the museum emphasizing their reluctant but yearning wish to close the distance between them. 

“He wins,” quips Marc after hearing the story of the Impressionist painter’s eventual loss of his sight as he was finishing the piece. 

Good Grief is Dan Levy’s foray into drama, and is a far cry from Schitt’s Creek. Unlike the flamboyant and sarcastic character he is well-known for, the film paints him in a widower’s light.

Dan Levy, Himesh Patel and Ruth Negga

The story talks about Marc and his famous author husband Oliver (Luke Evans), and the grief Marc feels over losing Oliver in a car accident at the beginning of the film. In an attempt to move forward, he invites his best friends Sophie (Ruth Negga) and Thomas (Himesh Patel) for a weekend getaway in Paris. 

Above all, Good Grief showcases performance and dialogue very well. It unfolds almost like a one-man act with Marc as the omnipotent narrator. I have to laud Dan Levy for his ability to transcend the role of David Rose and showcase his versatility in the dramatic arts. Celia Imrie’s Imelda has a beautiful scene towards the end, where she attempts to withhold tears but fails to. It is a breakdown that is quiet yet powerful, and makes for one of the more memorable scenes in the film. “To avoid sadness is to avoid love,” she whispers, lip quivering, eyes tearing. 

The film’s score and soundtrack are also brilliantly weaved. Rob Simonsen’s score cements the grieving yet hopeful tone of the film very well, and the soundtrack felt like a warm hug. 

Behind the scenes of Good Grief, Dan Levy’s directorial and acting foray into drama

But I think there is an opportunity to improve in the film, and it is the way it showcases the connection to Marc’s grief. I understand that the thesis of the film is Marc’s utter refusal to grieve, thus painting a film where Oliver is barely there a year after his death. Upon Theo’s urging during their dinner to bare the truth, Marc shares, “I distract myself with things that do not remind me of [my mother] even if all I want to be is reminded of her.” 

Though the execution of that thesis is brilliant, I think it backfires towards the end because when Marc finally feels the grief, I feel disconnected. In the same vein, I wish Oliver had more flashback scenes to have the audience really connect to him despite Marc feeling otherwise. It would have made his reconnection to the feeling more impactful and more purposeful.

I also feel the “secret” that Oliver hides is not really significant to the film. It is surprising at the start, sure, but it feels like it was supposed to evoke a certain emotion that’s unnecessary. Grief is clear yet absent at the same time in this film. 

Overall, the message of hope is there, but the friendship feels more secondary than primary. Although the connection among the three friends is present, Sophie and Thomas feel like plot devices more than people. 

It is a great film overall, but needs much more emotion to bring out the grief. The good in Good Grief is there performance-wise, but the connection could have been stronger. 

Still a fan though. 

Catch Good Grief streaming on Netflix. 

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