After his iconic role in Schitt’s Creek, I will follow Dan Levy to any new project he embarks on. As soon as I saw Good Grief pop up on my suggested list on Netflix, I started to watch his new movie without reading the brief synopsis or, ya know, paying attention to the title with the word ‘grief’ in it. Having seen him in so many comedies, including Happiest Season and Sex Education, I hadn’t prepared myself for the complexity of watching him take on a more serious role; one where his normal wit and humor is nearly void. And, worse yet, Good Grief is basically the depiction of my worst fear brought to life.
Distinguished painter Marc (Levy) says goodbye to his husband Oliver (Luke Evans) on Christmas night as the latter leaves for a book signing in support of his latest best-seller. Tragedy strikes and Oliver dies in a car crash shortly after leaving their home. The following year isn’t easy for Marc, nor his best friends Sophie and Thomas, as they attempt to put the tattered pieces of their lives back together. While going through the late couple’s finances, Marc discovers that Oliver has a secret home in Paris and decides to visit the dwelling to accentuate the one-year anniversary of his passing. What follows is an emotional and enlightening rollercoaster none of our protagonists could expect.
Good Grief stars Dan Levy, Ruth Negga, Himesh Patel, Luke Evans, Celia Imrie, Arnaud Valois and Mehdi Baki. The drama was written, directed and produced by Levy. Kate Fenske, Debra Hayward and Megan Zehmer also produced. It features cinematography by Ole Bratt Birkeland and editing by Jonathan Corn with shooting happening under the Not a Real Production Company blanket. Good Grief received a limited theatrical release in December before dropping on Netflix earlier this week.
At first, I didn’t think I was going to enjoy this movie because it seemed incredibly showy, pretentious and pompous. Look, I’m just an average guy who works as a vet tech, watches UFC and scary movies, and wears the same clothes for years at a time. The culture of rich people is rather lost on me, unfortunately. At some point, however, I was drawn into the movie and couldn’t turn it off even though I couldn’t relate. I feel as if it was the performances, perfect pace and camera style that made Good Grief appealing. Wardrobe and set design helped play integral part in mirroring the emotions and complex nature of the characters’ relationships. It was actually kind of invigorating to see a film that wasn’t slapped together for a quick buck. Instead, Levy & Co made something rather beautiful. Atmosphere activated!
My only gripe with Good Grief is I didn’t feel as if it achieved what it set out to accomplish. We see movies about gay people hooking up. We see movies about gay people partying. We see movies about gay people just living their big gay lives. There isn’t yet a movie that exists that paints the true heartbreak of an immeasurable loss; a loss where you don’t even want to wake up in the morning. I was waiting for the pain and the anguish, and besides a few glimpses, that gut punch was mostly glazed over. Mr. Levy, if you’re going to tackle such a sensitive topic, please don’t be afraid to go all the way there. I know you’re intelligent enough to write a script that pushes boundaries. Remember, good movies are supposed to make us feel a certain emotion – whether positive or negative.
With that said, Good Grief was an amazing showing of Levy’s talent behind the camera as well as his incomparable charm in front of the lense. It steers away from typical film troupes and predictable plot advances. I sensed real chemistry between the cast and, again, can really appreciate the cinematography featured within. Good Grief is a talking piece, best seen with a group of friends and an open heart. We need more queer love stories like this one. At the same time, though, I don’t think I’d return to this title for a second run-through. It’s currently available for streaming on Netflix, so give it a chance, then let me know if you share the same sentiments!