‘Good Grief’ Review: An Empathic, Promising Debut From Levy

Kevin Taft reviews Good Grief, which serves as a promising beginning for Dan Levy's career as a feature film director.
User Rating: 7

Dan Levy’s feature film directorial debut marks a promising beginning for the Schitt’s Creek creator as he navigates a new challenge in his burgeoning career.

Written by Levy himself, Good Grief presents a nuanced exploration of loss and grief through the intertwined narratives of three friends, each grappling with their own manifestations of grief. The film unfolds at a festive holiday gathering hosted by book illustrator Marc (Levy) and his best-selling children’s author partner Oliver (Luke Evans “Our Son”) in their upscale London residence. Marc’s close-knit circle includes the vivacious Sophie (Ruth Negga) and art studio owner Thomas (Himesh Patel).

While Marc and Oliver seem to be the perfect couple with a beautiful life and a gaggle of amazing friends, tragedy strikes when Oliver is fatally involved in a cab accident, leaving Marc to grapple with grief, financial concerns, and the void left behind. Finding solace in the unwavering support of his friends, Marc’s journey takes an unexpected turn on the anniversary of Oliver’s death, unraveling hidden truths about his late partner.

To commemorate his appreciation for his friends, Marc impulsively treats them to an extended holiday in Paris. However, the trip unfolds with its share of challenges, revealing deeper layers of melancholy and unaddressed issues among the trio. As emotions reach a boiling point, secrets surface, forcing the friends to confront the underlying truths they’ve concealed.

Levy’s script, characterized by its contemplative tone, resonates with its relatability to anyone who has grappled with grief or felt lost in life. Rather than idealizing friendships, Levy skillfully exposes the inherent selfishness that surfaces within relationships, shedding light on the impact of grief and trauma. He challenges the notion that comparing types of grief is in any way conducive to empathic and healthy connections.

Levy adopts a warm and gentle style in his directorial approach, reminiscent of indie films, drawing parallels to directors like Noah Baumbach and Whit Stillman. The film’s actors deliver outstanding performances, with Ruth Negga standing out in a role that showcases her versatility without overshadowing the ensemble. Himesh Patel excels as the understated Thomas, revealing deep wounds as the narrative unfolds.

While Levy’s transition from comedic roles may take some adjustment, he successfully navigates the dramatic terrain. Though not flawlessly executed, the film leaves the audience satisfied, offering a realistic portrayal of evolving friendships in one’s thirties.

The film’s only stumbling block lies in its tendency to inundate the narrative with heavy-handed reflections and earnest platitudes, creating moments akin to constant quotations from self-help literature. This stylistic choice may make viewers weary of the characters’ profound musings, ultimately affecting the impact of the climax, which is where most of those insights should be revealed.

I did appreciate that while the film’s final moments are upbeat, things aren’t wrapped up in a bow. It felt like a realistic evolution of a friendship of thirty-somethings still figuring things out but continuing to love each other every step of the way.

Good Grief is available to stream on Netflix.

Written by
Kevin is a long-time movie buff with a wide variety of tastes and fixations in the film world. He cried the moment Benji appeared onscreen in “Benji,” and it took him about four times to finally watch “The Exorcist” (at age 24) without passing out. “Star Wars: A New Hope” was the movie that changed everything and when his obsession with films and filmmaking began. A screenwriter himself (one long-ago horror script sale to New Line remains on a shelf), his first film "Two Tickets to Paradise" that he co-wrote premiered in June 2022 on Hallmark. He is currently working on another for the iconic brand.

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