The truth is I would follow Dan Levy just about anywhere.
It's not because he's cute (though he is).
Levy, seemingly a creator extraordinaire, simply has the kind of presence that invites you and holds space for you to be where you are. Having first served notice of his immense talent with Schitt's Creek, Levy is now doing a slow reveal of the width and breadth of his talent with a variety of projects including his feature directing debut with Good Grief.
Levy stars as Marc, an artist happily married to Oliver (Luke Evans). They are a successful couple mostly owing to Oliver having authored a series of best-selling fantasy adventure novels that have subsequently been turned into a popular film franchise. Marc, in turn, is Oliver's illustrator and collaborator. They live well in the Notting Hill section of London with impossibly good-looking friends like Thomas (Himesh Patel) and Sophie (Ruth Negga).
Everything is good.
Until, well, you probably already know.
A festive and magical holiday gathering ends with Oliver handing a Christmas card to Marc before he heads off for a book signing in Paris. Moments later, Oliver is killed in an accident involving his taxi.
Marc is alone.
Good Grief captures the culture shock of suddenly being alone in a world that had been so full. As Marc, Levy captures beautifully the glazed-over look of despair and bewilderment of having everything, including a publisher suddenly seeking funds back for books that will now never be delivered, tossed into disarray. This doesn't mean, of course, that there's no humor to be found here. Anyone who has ever grieved will tell that grief is often awkwardly and defiantly funny. Kaitlyn Dever hits a homer in a brief cameo as the cinematic heroine who brought Oliver's story to life and who now waxes inappropriately at his funeral. Emma Corwin elicits laughs as a half-knit performance artist and Celia Imrie lights up the screen as Imelda, Marc and Oliver's lawyer.
However, Good Grief really begins to shine once Marc finally opens the Christmas card Oliver handed him and discovers that Oliver had a beautiful apartment in Paris that is now his. With Thomas and Sophie by his side, Marc heads off for a holiday experience that will heal, reveal, and gently nudge Marc and his friends toward something deeper and wiser.
Good Grief isn't a perfect film, though it's a rewarding film. Levy proves himself to be a rewarding storyteller. Much as was true with Schitt's Creek, Levy proves to be a generous performer who often shares the spotlight with his ensemble. While March is undeniably the focus here, Levy ensures that everyone has lines that matter and moments to shine. In fact, everyone shines here at times to the detriment of the storytelling as it occasionally takes too much of the focus away from the far more compelling Marc.
Yet, at its very weakest Good Grief is a little cinematic wonder of the messiness of life and love and grief. It's an impossibly beautiful film courtesy of Ole Bratt Birkeland's pristine lensing, Julian Day's costume design, and Alice Normington's production design, yet it's also unafraid of getting messy within that beauty and within its often way too spot-on messaging and Mr. Obvious cinematic stylings. In short, Good Grief works even when it really doesn't.
The first time I laid eyes on Levy, it felt as if he possessed a layer of drama that would allow for a wonderfully diverse film career of his choosing. While his father, comedy great Eugene Levy, has been somewhat impacted by having a face that, let's be honest, simply makes you laugh, the younger Levy possesses an aura that makes you want to follow him whether he's laughing or crying or reading the phone book. Both Levys are immensely talented, of course, leaving those of us with family highlights of "Used Car Salesman of the Month" left to lament.
Minor quibbles aside, Good Grief is an entertaining and meaningful drama with a strong ensemble and a tender story that will resonate with those who experience a more melancholy holiday season.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic