Source: Netflix

Review: Dan Levy Earns Writer-Director Cred with 'Good Grief'

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 3 MIN.

Openly gay "Schitt's Creek" star Dan Levy makes his debut as a feature film writer-director with a gay love story that mostly happens after the end of a marriage – not due to divorce, mind you, but because of untimely death.

Marc (Levy) and his husband Oliver (Luke Evans) have a perfect life: They live in London, ensconced among a group of friends and forging a successful joint career in which Oliver writes, and Marc illustrates, a series of books targeting the teen reader market. The books, and the movies based on them, bring in a tidy sum.

But then a Christmas tragedy strikes; suddenly widowered, Marc gets through the next year as best he can, comforted by his best friends Thoams (Himesh Patel) and Sophie (Ruth Negga). When, a year later, Marc finally opens a Christmas card Oliver had written him, he makes a stunning discovery that throws everything he thought he knew into doubt. A second bombshell follows with the discovery that Oliver had rented a pied-à-terre (or was it a love nest?) in Paris.

Determined to sort out the mysteries that have fallen into his lap – and sort out his feelings around these shattering discoveries – Marc heads to the City of Light with Thomas and Sophie in tow, though without telling them the reason for the trip or the reason for the Parisian apartment. Clues follow, such as a year-old Christmas gift for someone called Luca, but what soon becomes more pressing is a growing sense among the friends that while Marc has been the center of care and attention since Oliver's death, Thomas and Sophie need some TLC, too; their lives are also in disarray.

While in Paris, opportunities find them, mostly in the form of a date Sophie has arranged online for herself that comes with a gay friend for Thomas to flirt with. Marc, too, has a potential new romance in the form of a hot Parisian guy named Theo (Arnaud Valois).

But this is not a rom-com; rather, "Good Grief" is a tangle of messily unresolved loose ends, not all of them left over from the tragic end of Marc's marriage. There are plenty of one-liners and comic moments, but the film's overall mood is one of ache and bereavement. By the time Marc describes his pain as "a little ulcer... that never goes away," you've probably absorbed more of the movie's somber heaviness than you'd bargained for.

Twists? Catharses? They're here, but they might not be what you expect. The cast bring their A-game and give the movie a lift (Negga and Valois in particular are assets here, and Celia Imrie steals the handful of scenes in which she appears as Marc's financial advisor), but this isn't supposed to be frothy fare. To Levy's credit, his direction gives the film a sense of structure and consistency that holds up under the weight of his character's grief. The Parisian settings help. Where else could mourning, strife among best buddies, and revelations that make you question your whole life take on a romantic tinge? All in all, a story that could have collapsed like a ruined soufflé holds its shape.

Still, this is a movie you get through (a little like the experience of grief itself), and you come away wanting to look forward to what Levy might write and direct next, rather than wanting to reflect back on the film you've just seen.

"Good Grief" streams on Netflix starting Jan. 5.

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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