Grace and Grit
By Tara McNamara,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Messy messaging in cancer romance; language, drinking.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Love like you're dying. The heart will go on. However, while it seems like the movie is trying to convey positive messages about finding personal growth and spirituality in the midst of confronting death, viewers are more likely to take away the fact that cancer is a terrible disease. Also has iffy messages about impact of domestic violence.
Positive Role Models
Treya embraces idea that pain she feels from cancer connects her to humanity's suffering; she creates support groups and writes a book to help. She's undoubtedly courageous, and she and her husband demonstrate humility, perseverance, teamwork. But their romance also includes alcohol dependence and domestic violence.
Violence & Scariness
Spousal abuse by an aspirational character is shown from his point of view in a way that suggests his wife brought it on herself. Implied abortion. Suicidal ideation in front of a gun store. Jokes about suicide.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Romantic storyline with lots of snuggling, passionate kissing, sensuality, a bit of suggestive talk. In context of breast cancer, several shots of clothed breasts -- including a male looking appreciatively at a woman's chest and a pubescent girl admiring her chest in the mirror.
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Strong language includes "bitch," "boob," "crap," "dammit," and several uses of "f--k."
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Products & Purchases
Suggested throughout that Ken is a brilliant author; his books are discussed and shown constantly in terms that may make viewers want to check them out. Beer brand touted as being doctor recommended.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Heavy alcohol consumption by sympathetic and aspirational male lead, portrayed as being driven to drink by his life's difficulties. While depicted negatively, no significant consequences come from the drinking. A beer is touted as being good for you.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Grace and Grit is based on the true story of the romance between New Age philosopher Ken Wilber (Stuart Townsend) and his wife, Treya Killam Wilber (Mena Suvari), who's diagnosed with breast cancer 10 days after their wedding. It's adapted from Ken's same-named bestselling book about their experience, which has been praised for providing inspirational guidance for cancer patients and caregivers. But this filmed version doesn't connect those dots as successfully, and Treya and Ken's "idyllic" romance has problematic aspects. First, it sets up unrealistic expectations of love, including the idea that the two have a shared transcendent experience when they touch. Second, amid all of their lovey-dovey behavior, there's also an instance of domestic violence; Treya, the victim, is despondent until Ken "wants her back," and then their relationship is good again. Ken also starts drinking heavily throughout Treya's cancer treatment, not because of her failing health, but more because he's upset that his wife's physical needs are distracting him from his work. That sexist subtext is felt in other areas, too, though you have to wonder whether that's the movie, Ken, or the 1980s setting. In some ways, the film feels like an infomercial for Ken and his books, which are displayed and referenced throughout. Strong language includes "bitch" and "f--k"; there's also suicidal ideation (and jokes about suicide), passionate kissing, and suggestive talk.
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Grace and Grit
Based on 1 parent review
SUCH IS LIFE & DEATH - A FILM TO REFLECT ON ACCEPTANCE
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What's the Story?
Based on the same-named bestselling biographical book, GRACE AND GRIT reflects on the romance between mystic philosopher and author Ken Wilber (Stuart Townsend) and his wife, Treya Killam Wilber (Mena Suvari). Right after they're married, Treya receives a breast cancer diagnosis. Determined to beat it, the Wilbers find personal growth through their love and committment as they fight the disease together.
Is It Any Good?
Everyone has a story, but not everyone's story is cinematic -- and while the Wilbers' experience may deserve our compassion, this depiction doesn't deserve our viewership. Writer-director Sebastian Siegel shows an ineptitude for storytelling, butchering the screenplay adaptation. For those who are unfamiliar with Wilber's complex teachings about consciousness, nothing will be learned here. It seems as if Treya did some extraordinary things, and the couple came to some inspirational conclusions through their harrowing experience, but none of it is clearly communicated in Grace and Grit. Seesawing between Ken and Treya's transcendent love affair and the couple trying new therapies and getting worse and worse results, it starts to feel like a warped version of Final Destination that resolves in what must be the world's longest and most melodramatic death scene.
This is a production deeply in need of a tripod. Cinematographer Shan Liljestrand overuses and overshakes the shaky cam, which is nauseatingly aggravated by his reliance on circle zooms and fisheye viewpoints. Much goes unexplained, and lines are repeated without impact. Dreamlike inserts of Treya walking through a lush green Malibu mountaintop to represent her personal journey and Ken plunging lifelessly through water to indicate his helplessness are tired clichés. Like him, hate him, or don't know him, it appears that Wilber is at least an original thinker -- and this production doesn't do him, his late wife, or their ideas justice. The only way to enjoy this film is unconscious.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how death and dying are portrayed in films. Are Treya's cancer struggle and death portrayed realistically in Grace and Grit?
This film promotes finding spirituality and healing in the face of death. Would you call it a faith-based film? Why, or why not?
Why do you think Hollywood is enamored with movies about terminal illness? (Terms of Endearment, The Art of Racing in the Rain, 50/50, The Fault in Our Stars, etc.) What makes that subject compelling to producers -- and to audiences?
How does Treya demonstrate courage, perseverance, and humility?
How does Treya, and later Ken, find purpose in her battle with cancer? How do finding purpose and helping others actually help us?
- In theaters: June 4, 2021
- On DVD or streaming: June 4, 2021
- Cast: Mira Sorvino, Stuart Townsend, Frances Fisher
- Director: Sebastian Siegel
- Studio: Quiver Distribution
- Genre: Romance
- Run time: 111 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language
- Last updated: April 5, 2023
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