Review by Jonathan Berk
Dan Levy wrote, directed, and stars in Good Grief. The film has moments that are really emotionally affecting and features some very great supporting performances. However, the story sometimes feels aimless, and some sequences make the characters feel insufferable. Good Grief is not flawless, but it has enough good to make it a decent debut feature for Levy.
Marc's (Dan Levy) whole life is abruptly disrupted after his husband Oliver (Luke Evans) dies. As time goes by, Marc's friends Thomas (Himesh Patel) and Sophie (Ruth Negga) have been a constant system of support. However, the friends head to Paris to confront some hard truths and do a little soul-searching.
There are a lot of moments in the film that allow the actors to give long monologues. The one that works the absolute best is given by David Bradley, who plays Oliver's father. His speech at Oliver's funeral is powerful and somehow still subtle. It's one of the few speeches a character gives that doesn't sound like they're regurgitating a self-help book. This speech also gives Levy the opportunity to react and demonstrate his emotional range.
While some of the later speeches feel clunky in their structure, the performances are still very good. Late into the film's third act, Levy, Patel, and Negga sit around a ruined dinner table. Each takes turns spouting armchair psychology about their emotional well-being. "Let me be sorry" and phrases like that are bantered about in rapid succession. It is important for humans to have a grip on their emotional well-being, but this sequence trying to be a big third-act moment feels far less impactful than it should.
In reality, this movie could have used a bit more melodrama. The stakes and the revelations never really hit the emotional chords they should. Levy plays the role maybe a bit too restrained at times for a man who has many reasons to lose control. There is a sequence on a Ferris wheel that really seems perfect for this big escalation. Three people harboring issues with each other are put into a situation they can't easily escape. The film acknowledges this circumstance and then really doesn't do much with it. Things are said, but it still doesn't feel significant or revelatory.
Good Grief delivers in a few ways, but mostly by allowing us to see some really good performances from its cast. The overall premise tends to just work, as it's hard not to feel sympathy for someone who loses the love of their life. There are traces of films that have come before dealing with love and loss and that sense of continued discovery after they are gone. Yet, this one doesn't quite feel as impactful as those that came before.
Good Grief hits theaters on December 29 and streams on Netflix beginning January 5.