Good Grief review | Daniel Levy’s directorial debut is sentimental mush

Good grief
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Daniel Levy tries his hand at directing with this overly sentimental, but affecting tale of adult friendships and lost love. Here’s our Good Grief review. 

I love a good tearjerker. Titanic, The Fault In Our Stars, the ending to A.I, The Notebook. I can’t get enough of them. Crying is, or at least can be, cathartic and purifying and if a good film truly deserves your tears, there’s nothing quite like it. I’m always impressed when a film can make me, a self-admitted cold-hearted bitch, cry. 

Which is why I’m incredibly disappointed to say that Daniel Levy’s Good Grief got absolutely zero tears out of me. Levy stars as Marc, an artist who is grappling with the loss of his mother when his husband Oliver (Luke Evans) dies in a car crash as he’s heading to the airport for business. 

A year later, Marc discovers that in his last Christmas card to him, Oliver confesses to having met someone else and on top of that, their financial advisor reveals that Oliver had a secret apartment in Paris. To figure out what the heck is going on and to heal, Marc grabs his two best pals (Ruth Negga and Himesh Patel) and jets off to the French capital. 

good grief
Credit: Netflix

Don’t get me wrong, there’s much to admire in Good Grief. Levy treats adult friendships with the same type of seriousness and curiosity that is almost always reserved for romantic relationships, but the film trips over the genre’s cliches. 

While watching the film, I kept thinking about the difference between genuine empathy and sympathy. Good Grief evokes a lot of sympathy but at no point could I empathise with Marc, who lives in a lavish home and is able to just drop everything and fly off to Paris. Of course, rich people experience grief just like us peasants, but Good Grief seems to value pretty things and a glossy look over anything remotely real and, inevitably, ugly. 

Levy has clearly designed Good Grief as a comedy drama, but neither element really works. Good Grief is never funny enough to be a comedy and the dramatic beats feel wobbly. The groundwork has been laid and Levy has cast his film impeccably, but the dialogue feels stilted and clumsy. No one in the film talks like a real human being. 

Marc tries to explain what loss feels like, describing it as a lesion, right on his chest. It’s meant as sincere, but it comes across as artificial. The film also includes cameos from Emma Corrin and Kaitlyn Dever that serve no purpose whatsoever. These work further to give Good Grief a glossy surface, but the film has no depth. 

In their defence, the cast are giving it their all. Negga is particularly powerful as Marc’s alcoholic, self-confessed mess, Sophie. Despite the film’s narrow focus, she manages to inject her character with plenty of life, but is often pulled down by the heavy-handed script. Sophie feels like she would have been right at home with the girls from Sophie Hyde’s phenomenal Animals, a much better film about adult friendships that are often a little on the boozy side.  

Himesh Patel, one of the most exciting British rising stars, isn’t given much to do here as Marc’s ex-boyfriend turned best friend. David Bradley is mostly wasted as Oliver’s father but he gets a moment of true tenderness early on in the film and it may well be the best that Good Grief has to offer. It’s just a shame other moments like it are few and far between. 

If only Good Grief kept its focus on the friendships, it could have been a revelatory, groundbreaking film. As a story about grief, Levy doesn’t manage to say anything new or insightful, but as a film about the complexities of adult friendships, there’s a lot of meat on its bones – but it’s all a bit overcooked. 

Levy himself is a magnetic lead, but his performance is bogged down by the same unwillingness to dig deeper as his direction. There is a refusal to be ugly and real here, and Levy’s treatment of grief feels heavily romanticised. Levy shows potential as a director and is able to draw exciting performances from his cast, so perhaps with a little more practice, he can become the next great actor-turned-director. 

Good Grief is now streaming on Netflix. 

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