“The Grief Of Others”
The Isolating Nature of Grief
Patrick Wang’s “The Grief of Others” is based on the novel by Leah Hager Cohen in which a couple’s baby dies 57 hours after his birth and the parents try to return to their previous lives and struggle to regain a semblance of normalcy for themselves and their two children.
Ricky (Wendy Moniz) and John (Trevor St. John) face seemingly insurmountable grief that also gravely affects ten-year-old Biscuit (Oona Laurence) and thirteen-year-old Paul (Jeremy Shinder), who deal with the intensity of the situation in their own unique ways. By grieving independently, the four family members grow increasingly unaware of each other. In the midst of all of the tension, John’s estranged daughter from a previous relationship — Jess (Sonya Harum) comes back into his life with by an unplanned pregnancy and looking for a helping hand. Along with a kind outsider, Gordie (Mike Faist), Jess helps the Ryries family get out of their own heads and take notice of the world around them.
Wang uses this film to contemplate the [de]construction of family following a terrible and traumatic moment. He keeps his distance from his characters and gives us a profound look at human behavior. Using static wide-shots, we observe the Ryries throughout a clinically disconnected perspective. What we see, we see from a single vantage point thus further isolating the nature of grief and the stillness within the Ryries family. Conversations are softly spoken so when there are heated moments, they seem intense. We see a family’s fragile inner life sensitively and we see the isolation and distance between parents and children even while living together. Taken as a whole, we have many perceptive moments that are beautifully directed yet not easy to watch. Yet we reach a satisfying conclusion. I felt as if I was in mourning or the first ¾ of the film and I do not mean that to sound negative. Tragedy has always been part of the world of entertainment and a tragedy that is well done can bring many satisfactory feelings. Here is a tragedy that is beautifully done and I cannot recommend it highly enough. This could be a very depressing film but it is not—- it is simply a beautiful film that deals with a terrible event.
Wang is both a director and an observer and we observe what he observes in all of its detail. His own personal style is evident in every shot and I do not want to spoil the film by telling you what to look on. Once you find the rhythm, you will notice it yourselves. He cinematically shows us how to deal with adversity and misunderstanding and how to pick up the pieces of what seems broken and how this improves our world.
With “The Grief of Others” we have a new auteur; I felt this with his first film, “In the Family” but he cements it here.
“The Grief of Others” opens November 2 in New York and Los Angeles.