Though lacking the emotional impact intended, Dan Levy’s Good Grief effectively captures the beauty of friendship and the importance of self-discovery after a tragic loss.
Dan Levy may be best known for his portrayal of Schitt’s Creek’s David Rose, one of television’s most beloved comedic characters, though the star’s latest project, Good Grief, showcases a different side to his talents. Levy’s feature film, where he serves as director, writer, producer, and lead actor, explores rebuilding one’s life after loss and the journey to self-discovery after experiencing significant change.
At first glance, Marc (Levy) and Oliver (Luke Evans) have a perfect life. They are wealthy, own a beautiful home, and are celebrating Christmas surrounded by friends and loved ones. When Oliver dies suddenly, Marc’s world is turned upside down, and the life he once knew is all but a distant memory. A year after Oliver’s death, Marc heads to Paris with his best friends Sophie (Ruth Negga) and Thomas (Himesh Patel) to uncover the truth behind his late husband’s betrayal and to rediscover himself.
Though Good Grief depicts a tragic loss, Marc’s grieving process lacks poignancy and sincerity. The passing of a loved one is a heartbreaking experience. Yet, the aftermath of Oliver’s death and Levy’s nuanced performance never quite captures the inconceivable devastation of losing a partner. That said, Marc is extremely likable, and I adore the vulnerability Levy brings to the role. His ability to effortlessly humanize Marc is remarkable, and his charm helps to establish an emotional connection with viewers.
Marc feels a deep sense of guilt for prioritizing his relationship with Oliver over his mother. Despite his reservations, he agreed to his late husband’s desires and prioritized them ahead of his own as he couldn’t bear the thought of losing the love of his life. As a form of self-preservation and out of fear of being judged, he hides Oliver’s questionable decisions from his friends.
Though the audience may not have experienced Marc’s challenges, Good Grief’s themes are relatable. Only when Marc addresses and deals with his internalized anger caused by the betrayal he experienced can he accept the reality of the situation and make peace with it. Although he cannot change the past, accepting the disloyalty he experienced and letting go of his anger allows for closure and self-love. Those who have grieved the loss of a loved one, dealt with dishonesty in their relationships, or compromised their values to appease their partner can understand his perspective and apply it to their own life experiences and challenges.
Negga and Patel are the heart of the feature, offering comedic relief while effectively portraying the beauty of close friendships. At times, Sophie and Thomas feel a bit one-dimensional, existing merely to aid Marc’s sorrow. Still, their emotional support serves its purpose, emphasizing the importance of companionship. Similarly, Good Grief demonstrates how love and reinforcement from friends can place individuals on the road to healing while encouraging them to address their demons and embrace their best and most authentic selves. Levy, Negga, and Patel have believable chemistry. However, Marc and Sophie’s scenes feel the most genuine, and witnessing Negga and Levy produce such an endearing bond is a joy to watch. Though short-lived, another feature highlight is Kaitlyn Dever’s cameo appearance, delivering a laugh-out-loud comedic one-liner guaranteed to make viewers chuckle.
Filming on location in London and Paris captures both cities’ character, beauty, and romance, adding to Good Grief’s realism. From cozy British cafes to a stunning French art gallery filled with vibrant artwork, the setting and atmosphere fully immerse viewers in each location. My only gripe is that Good Grief wasn’t released on Netflix in December. As a New Year watch, the festive Christmas atmosphere could have been more impactful than it was should the film have premiered worldwide during the last month of the year.
Good Grief is by no means the most compelling depiction of sorrow, though Levy’s feature directorial debut is commendable. The film explores relatable themes seen through the lens of likable characters and provides empathetic material for the audience to sink their teeth into. The feature is a digestible watch, focusing less on intense drama and more on self-acceptance, personal growth, and celebrating friendship. In fact, after the film concludes, you’ll feel an urge to call your dearest friends and express gratitude for having them in your life.
Good Grief is now available to watch on Netflix.