Review: ‘Good Grief’ is a nuanced look at loss by Dan Levy

Both 2013 and 2014 were years of incredible loss for me. My mother was diagnosed with ALS and died from complications related to that. I went through a divorce. I suffered a stillbirth at 35 weeks of pregnancy. It felt like at every turn, there was something to grieve. The sheer volume of events left me feeling like I was drowning in an ocean of sadness with few people to connect with. I am in a significantly better space now and even wrote a book about that period, but those events were at the top of my mind as I sat down to watch Dan Levy’s feature directorial debut, Good Grief. 

The story of Good Grief

When Marc (Dan LevySchitt’s Creek) loses his husband Oliver (Luke EvansBeauty & The Beast) in a tragic accident, his life feels as though it is unraveling. Near the one-year anniversary of Oliver’s death, Marc decides to take his two best friends, Sophie (Ruth NeggaPassing) and Thomas (Himesh PatelYesterday) to Paris. While in Paris, the three friends must confront various issues that keep each of them from having the kind of lives they want.

Good Grief. (L to R) Arnaud Valois as Theo and Daniel Levy (writer/director/producer) stars as Marc in Good Grief. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023.
Good Grief. (L to R) Arnaud Valois as Theo and Daniel Levy (writer/director/producer) stars as Marc in Good Grief. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023.

Good Grief is a quiet, thoughtful film that addresses the topic of grief in a far more nuanced way than one might expect from a movie by the guy who gained popularity from the show Schitt’s Creek. I was impressed with how the film handled the obvious issues of loss with Marc’s mother and his husband and the ways that we can grieve the absence of a romantic relationship or the lack of progress in a chosen career. There can be a tendency to think of grief only with regard to death, but any change offers the opportunity for mourning, and this movie did a lovely job of showing that.

Excellent performances by Levy, Negga, and Patel

The success of the characters is due in no small part to the excellent performances of the three leads. Levy does an excellent job showing someone who loses himself in his grief while simultaneously ignoring it. Negga lights up the screen every time she is on it, and plays the role of the quirky best friend to perfection. And Patel does a great job as the friend who is trying to hold everyone together while going through his own issues. The three of them have an easy chemistry together. Levy said that he wanted this film to showcase found family, and he accomplished that with this cast. 

Good Grief. (L to R) Yoli Fuller as Sebastian and Ruth Negga as Sophie in Good Grief. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023.

Despite so much to love, I found that the story bogged down in the second act. The friends spend much of that act dancing around their feelings in the way that friends can when the pain of being too real can get overwhelming, but narratively, that didn’t work as well for me. While there are comedic moments, many of them didn’t quite land for me. I appreciate how the characters were developed, but honestly, there was a portion of the movie when I just wanted to get on with it already.

Good Grief showcases Dan Levy’s eye for directing

Despite some pacing flaws, this film shows that Levy has a good eye for directing. Certainly, filming in Paris makes it easy to create a beautiful piece of art, but even with that head start, it is evident that he knows how to frame a shot to aid in the storytelling. 

One other thing that did keep the movie going was the excellent needle drops throughout. The soundtrack for this movie is, as Kendall Roy would say, “All bangers, all the time.” Each song did an excellent job of supporting the mood established in the script, something that isn’t always achieved in this kind of film. 

The complexity of grief

In an interview with EW, Levy said of losing his grandmother and experiencing the COVID pandemic, “It was hard for me to feel the specificity of loss when all I was feeling was grief for so long. It was that conversation that really expedited the concept of the movie.” 

For many of us, grief is considered a negative emotion. It is undoubtedly uncomfortable to experience, and with the pandemic, it is something that we have all felt to one degree or another for the past several years. At one point early in the film, Marc says that if his brain is a muscle, he is trying to train it to simply not feel the loss of his husband so acutely. As the film progresses, however, we see that ignoring the pain of grief doesn’t lessen its impact in any measurable way for Marc, and it is only in confronting those seemingly negative emotions that he is able to begin the process of moving forward.

This is not a perfect film, but it is a beautiful one, and its message is one that resonated with me. Grief refuses to be ignored. Unresolved, it will find its way into our lives by one means or another, so deciding to look at it head-on benefits everyone. If you have a place in Paris where you can process it, that probably helps.

Good Grief. (L to R) Himesh Patel as Thomas and Daniel Levy (writer/director/producer) stars as Marc in Good Grief. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023.
Good Grief. (L to R) Himesh Patel as Thomas and Daniel Levy (writer/director/producer) stars as Marc in Good Grief. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023.

Good Grief is now streaming on Netflix.

Have you watched Good Grief yet? What did you think? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below or by sharing your thoughts with us on X @MoviesWeTexted.

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