My Mom was very sick the years before I entered Middle School. The only times I saw her were in the Hospital. I was young so I was kept out of the loop on how things were really going. But one night at the hospital all the relatives were there. My dad even slept over instead of coming home. I didn’t realize the significance of the situation at the time.
The next day my older sisters were at the house, someplace they rarely even visited. When I caught Leslie was crying in the kitchen, I asked her what was wrong but she wouldn’t tell me. I said “What? Did mommy die?” And she started balling. But still no one would tell me anything until my Dad came home. Death of parents in films have always been my soft spot for me. If a Mother dies on the big screen you can bet the waterworks are flowing. So to say I teared up during Grace is Gone would be a huge understatement.
The film follows a father as he takes his two daughters on a road trip to a amusement park in the wake of their Mother’s death in Iraq. Cusack plays a father who is unable to reveal the shocking news to his daughters. The trip has an underlying eerie feeling of sadness, a broken family before the realization.
I have always said that the reason why United 93 works so well is that we know where it must end. We watch, dreading the final seconds. You realize very early on that the daughters in Grace is Gone must find out. You sit there dreading that moment, feeling joy and sadness for every last minute before they must find out the truth.
The two young actresses that play Cusack’s daughters are naturals. Cusack is brilliant. This is his best performance in years.
What’s also great about this film is that it doesn’t avoid the issues of the Iraq war, but also doesn’t take sides. It’s part of the film, a topical backdrop, but not much more. Many filmmakers would choose to expliot that more in today’s angry times, but Grace is Gone transends above momentary feelings and archieves much more.
Two years ago at Sundance I fell in love with the Steve Buscemi-directed Lonesome Jim. The semi-biographical screenplay by James C. Strouse was a delight. Strouse makes a promising directing debut with Grace. Sure, some of the moments are may-be too over the top. Strouse is not a technician, nor is he the best actor’s director. But what Strouse brings to the table is knowledge of his world of story. He knows what must happen and how it must happen, and the resulting film is top notch.
/Film Rating: 8 out of 10