Movies are great at sweeping an audience up into intense emotions and experiences; even when a plot is flimsy, a good roller-coaster ride can be worth the price of admission. It's not so easy to make a movie about something that isn't happening. In Grace is Gone, what doesn't happen (at least not for a very long time) is a dad breaking the news to his daughters that their mom is dead.
We watch him not tell them in the living room, in the car, in restaurants, in motels, at an amusement park—he doesn't tell them all the way from the upper Midwest to Florida. He grimaces and weeps, he calls his own answering machine to hear Grace's recorded voice, but he can't bring himself to get it out to the girls. The whole movie is like being stuck in bed with a cold.
As the story opens Stanley Phillips is a manager at a big-box home store, and his wife, Grace, is a sergeant stationed in Iraq. After a couple of brief set-up scenes we see him answer the door one morning to find a military officer and a chaplain on the doorstep. Comprehension and denial cascade simultaneously down his face. When the officer asks, "May we come in, sir?", the stunned man breathes "No."
When 12-year-old Heidi (Shelan O'Keefe) and 8-year-old Dawn (Gracie Bednarczyk) get home from school, Stanley gathers them in the living room and attempts to break the news, but the words stick in his throat. One procrastination leads to another, and before long he's impulsively decided to treat them to a trip to a Florida theme park. The biggest part of the movie concerns that journey, the days and nights on the road, as Stanley wrestles with his emotions.
This is an enormous weight for an actor to carry. Not much occurs by means of dialogue; the work of conveying the story ...1
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Grace Is Gone
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