Dr. Burke Ryan (Aaron Eckhart) is a self-help guru. His best-selling book, A-Okay, about grieving the loss of a loved one, has birthed seminars across the country. And thanks to his wheeler-dealer manager Lane (Dan Fogler), he's on the cusp of signing a deal for a book series, a syndicated TV show, and a line of merchandise that includes exercise equipment and weight-loss supplements ("making loss a good thing").
Too bad Burke is so emotionally shut down he can't enjoy any of his success.
His life is a series of well-ordered routines, neutral hotel rooms, and surprising contradictions. His book warns against the crutch of alcohol and encourages practicing happiness with five minutes of daily smiling. Yet we see the good doctor hitting the mini-bar and sitting in a stone-faced stupor in his lonely hotel room.
Likewise, there's a staggering disparity between the forlorn look on his face in the hallway just moments before his opening talk at the A-Okay Seattle seminar and the brilliant smile he flashes to this roomful of grieving groupies. It's not that Burke is insincere; he truly wants to help these people. It's just that it's easier to help them deal with their grief than to dig deep and finally confront his own unresolved pain over his wife's sudden death in a car accident three years prior.
But a few encounters at this Seattle seminar start to shake things up.
Burke is moved by one of the conference attendees, Walter (John Carroll Lynch), a burly contractor who's just lost his 12-year-old son. Walter has a finely tuned crap-ometer, and doesn't buy all of Burke's fortune-cookie wisdom. Their conversations force both men to dig deeper into their own personal hurt.
After a session one day, Burke's estranged father-in-law (who lives ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more
This slideshow is only available for subscribers.
Please log in or subscribe to view the slideshow.