Good Grief

Good Grief
Good Grief
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You will not “Ew, David” your way through Good Grief. So grab a tissue and get ready to feel things. The comedy-drama is directed by über-hipster Dan Levy, the guy who made black-and-white attire a thing while playing David Rose on Schitt’s Creek. It also stars him, in fact; this is the Emmy-winning actor-writer-director’s first project under his exclusive Netflix deal.

The movie assembles a strong cast for an unusual love story — one that centers on the bonds between dear friends. Marc (Levy) lives in the shadow of his larger-than-life husband Oliver (Luke Evans). When Oliver dies suddenly, it destroys Marc and sends him into the warm embrace of his two best friends, former lover-turned-BFF Thomas (Himesh Patel) and sunny Sophie (Ruth Negga). A soul-searching trip to Paris seems like a grand idea, but ultimately it exposes hidden truths about Marc’s marriage…and himself.

This is Levy’s feature directorial debut; he also wrote and produced Good Grief, which is a decent outing all around. However, if you’re expecting hard laughs in the vein of Schitt’s Creek — well-meaning romantic quirkiness with lots of heart — you’re going to be disappointed. They don’t exist here. What Levy gives us instead is a more mature drama that’s occasionally too achy for its own good. But if you enjoy watching Levy on screen, films with great casts or walking tours through Paris, Good Grief provides an apt post-holiday visit.

Dan Levy most recently starred in Haunted Mansion opposite Tiffany Haddish and Sex Education alongside Gillian Anderson. The idea for Good Grief came after Levy lost his grandmother — so yes, there are several death blows delivered throughout this movie. When we meet Marc initially, he appears to be content with his boisterous partner Oliver — but there’s clearly something bubbling beneath the surface. You can see it in Marc’s face, and Levy nails these complex emotional beats. Still mourning the passing of his mother a few months prior, Marc puts on a brave face at a holiday gathering; but as soon as Oliver leaves for a business trip, Marc and his party guests hear a car crash outside the London flat. It changes everything for Marc.

The film makes fine use of its supporting cast. Himesh Patel (Enola Holmes 2) really walks an emotional tightrope here as Thomas, who was once Marc’s ex — their friendship is tight, but you can sense that Thomas still holds out some hope that he and Marc might be able to rekindle their old flame somewhere down the line. It’s an emotional pang that may never fully get resolved.

And while Marc and Thomas are plumbing deeper depths, pal Sophie is joyfully skipping along on the surface — though even she has some emotional barriers to push through. It’s a good trio to play with, and Levy — this much is certain about him: he knows his feelings — proves himself here as a confident director who understands how people work emotionally and the weird shapes they make with each other in relationships. Which is great for him and tricky in something longer than an episode of comedic television clocking in at 22 minutes; there are times when it feels like Levy is almost too smart for his own good, that some levity would do wonders for all this soupiness.

The movie’s second half is a great tour of Paris — the most beautiful city in Europe. It takes place one year after Oliver’s death, when Marc finally opens the Christmas card Oliver gave him before the accident. The “reveal” inside is shocking; it sends Marc to Oliver’s apartment in Paris. Soon enough, though, he begins to question everything about what he thought was a good marriage. Worse yet, he realizes he never dealt with his mother’s death. Thomas and Sophie arrive and the three take Paris together for a bit.

But this film seems to have an affinity for staying low to the ground. Even when charming Arnaud Valois shows up as Theo, a French art connoisseur, Levy loves hinting at something more between Marc and Theo … but never lets that hope feel real for Marc Interesting because you get the sense that maybe — even before all this grief — Marc might’ve been someone who appreciated life’s stranger ironies enough to laugh at them anyway. There are some absurd moments that befall Marc which Levy makes great use of but also would’ve been nice to see more.

Ultimately “Good Grief” is not like any gay love story we’ve seen before now; no other LGBTQ stories have tracked anything other than relief or rights. Up until this point in time audiences are used seeing closeted men come out or characters living with AIDS/HIV dealing with major life changes while fighting for civil rights! It is rare that an LGBTQ story tracks the flip side of love – messy reality every person faces when they experience big losses in their lives?

This bold move on Levy’s part does lead one into overt bittersweetness territory where it will stay under your skin until you can’t help but stay invested throughout Mark’s journey but there still remains quite a lot heart within Good Grief which keeps this from becoming one those films too dark emotionally deep recovery become possible again thanks some smart decisions made by writer/director David Levy who has crafted a truly worthwhile investment piece here.

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