Grace Is Gone
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that kids and teens may have a hard time processing some of this somber indie drama's mature themes, notably war and the death of a parent. The characters swear on occasion, a 12-year-old girl smokes and acts out in other ways (though mostly fairly tamely), and a grown-up suffers a near-emotional breakdown. Nevertheless, the movie has a soft center, empathizing with the experiences of a father and his two daughters as they deal with the terror that comes with knowing their loved one is on the front lines.
What's the story?
GRACE IS GONE tells the story of father Stanley Phillips (John Cusack),who faces the heart-wrenching task of informing his two young daughters, Heidi (Shélan O'Keefe) and Dawn (Gracie Bednarczyk), that their soldier mother has been killed in Iraq. Winner of the Dramatic Audience Award at Sundance 2007, this film is a far cry from typical Hollywood war movies, where the battlefields take center stage. This time, those left behind are the ones whose experiences are in the spotlight.
Is it any good?
For the most part, director/screenwriter James C. Strouse manages to convey the family's grief in an admirably understated way, and Cusack is very believable as a father. That said, did Stanley have to be such a schlub? Everything from his facial expressions to his shuffling gait spells defeated -- so much so that viewers feel they're dragging, too.
The film starts clumsily, not quite finding its footing in the first half. Humorous early scenes, as when Stanley attends a support group for soldiers' wives, seem forced. But thank goodness for the children, who are clearly and genuinely talented. Soon after the film begins, you lose track of the fact that they're actors. Instead, your heart aches for them and the thought that they, real characters or not, won't grow up with their mother.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about how the media typically depicts war and its consequences. How is this film different from other movies about war? What are the experiences of families who go through this type of tragedy? Why do you think Stanley can't tell his daughters the truth right away? Also, what is the effect of never having Grace show up on camera? Is the film more or less effective for her absence?