Beautiful Something Left Behind

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Beautiful Something Left Behind Movie Poster Image
Poignant documentary about kids coping with grief.
  • NR
  • 2021
  • 88 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Encourages compassion, empathy, perseverance. Acknowledges need to care for children experiencing loss, the fact that kids grieve differently than adults do.

Positive Role Models

The grief counselors are kind, empathetic. They talk to the kids about their feelings, how they're handling their grief. The kids' remaining parents and guardians interact with them in a compassionate, loving way. The kids are hopeful and sweet.

Violence

Scenes of crying and sad children grieving loss of a parent. Reference to fatal car accident. Implication that one death could have been by suicide.

Sex
Language

A few comments like "kick his butt," "kill you," and "you're dead."

Consumerism

A few glimpses of brands: Mercedes, The North Face, Nike, and Nerf guns.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Discussion of "bad medicine" and alcohol contributing to two deaths.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Beautiful Something Left Behind is a documentary about young children involved in grief counseling at Good Grief, a New Jersey community organization. Director Katrine Philp solely focuses on the children, interviewing them and following them around at home and at the center. Although adults are around and speak to the kids, they don't speak to the camera/viewers, so the film immerses audiences into the topic of grief as the children experience it. Expect scenes of sad, crying children and references to and stories of how various kids' parents died (including via car accident and one possibly by suicide). There are vague mentions of "bad medicine" and "alcohol" being responsible for loss. This isn't a "fun family movie night" pick, but families dealing with grief and loss might find it valuable to watch together.

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What's the story?

BEAUTIFUL SOMETHING LEFT BEHIND follows young children going through bereavement support at Good Grief, an organization based in Morristown, New Jersey, that provides ongoing support for kids mourning the loss of a loved one. Directed by Katrine Philp, the film, which was the winner of the 2020 SXSW Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary, focuses directly on the children, highlighting a group of six kids between the ages of 5 and 10. Peter, 6, is an orphan whose mother recently died in a car accident but whose father died of "bad medicine" earlier in his life. Kimmy and Nicky, 8-year-old twins, lost their father to an illness. Nine- and 10-year-old siblings Nolan and Nora's divorced father seems to have died either by suicide or because of something substance-related. And 5-year-old Mikayla's father died of a sickness. No adults are interviewed, although a few parents, caregivers, and counselors are shown talking to the children.

Is it any good?

This is a heartbreaking, immersive documentary about how young children process overwhelming grief with help from kind counselors and loving caregivers. It's extremely poignant to see how loss impacts these little kids, who are clearly affected by the deaths that led them to Good Grief but don't all have the capacity to explain their emotions beyond sadness, tears, and an unsurprising penchant for imaginative play that involves people dying. Peter's story, as an orphan, is particularly heartrending; he's only 6 and is seemingly being raised by his maternal grandmother and uncle. Even Mikayla, who lost her dad, has a conversation with her widowed mother about how some kids don't have a father or a mother, like her friend Peter. The movie's two sets of siblings are also compelling, because each set has one sibling who's more outgoing and one who's more subdued. Nicky in particular says very little, while Kimmy comically talks nonstop.

However, as touching as it is to witness the children at the center of Beautiful Something Left Behind, it's somewhat frustrating not to have any context about the group -- how it's structured and how it progresses. It's not that the kids aren't compelling subjects, but even a bit of background information would have gone a long way. The only text information provided on-screen is the kids' names and ages. The interviews reveal how sad -- and, in some ways, confused -- the children are, how upsettingly unkind classmates can be, how lonely it is to be motherless or fatherless. This isn't an easy documentary to watch, but viewers will feel invested in the children's stories.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how compassion, empathy, and perseverance are displayed in Beautiful Something Left Behind, and why they're important character strengths.

  • Why do you think the filmmaker chose to focus only on the children? What did you learn about the way kids grieve?

  • Discuss some of your favorite documentaries and what they teach families. What makes them special?

  • How can media help us process our feelings?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love help with big feelings

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