Theatrical one-sheet for The Grief of Others

By Cynthia Citron

Because they are actors who are largely unfamiliar to regular movie-goers, watching their film will make you feel like a Peeping Tom. “The Grief of Others” tells its poignant story while the rest of us peek in, and in short order the reactions and emotions of this family become so real and recognizable that they call to mind our very own friends and their families.

In the Ryrie family both the mother and father work and the kids, Paul and Biscuit, 13 and 11, go to school. But these routine activities are not what the film is about. It’s about the fundamental essence of family.

“The Grief of Others” captures the Ryries, this quintessential suburban family in Nyack, New York, as they individually cope with the trauma of a baby’s death.

The film opens on an orange screen with faces smiling down, presumably at a baby in a crib. Nothing else on screen but their faces and a billowing blanket and the creepy sense that this is a foreshadowing of things to come.

The anticipated baby that John and Ricky Ryrie (Trevor St. John and Wendy Moniz) had pre-named Simon died after only 57 hours. Sadly, Ricky had been told, earlier in her pregnancy, that the baby had severe physical problems that were “incompatible with life.”   But in order to spare John she had kept this information from him, and when he learns that she had known ahead of time that the baby would die, it intensifies his grief at the death and infuriates him that she had kept the information a secret.

As the two react to their loss by distancing themselves from each other, their two temporarily neglected children begin to register their confusion with acts of unbridled behavior. Paul (Jeremy Shinder), who spends his time drawing pictures of angry men with pens and black ink, has a fist-fight with a fellow student and gets suspended from school, while Biscuit (Oona Laurence) starts a fire in the bathroom. And earlier, she had wandered to the nearby Hudson River and fallen in.

Fortunately, she is rescued by a kindly young man named Gordie (Mike Faist) who brings her home and soon becomes a fixture in the family. As does Jessica (Sonya Harum), John’s grown-up daughter by his first wife, who arrives unexpectedly and provides help and a quiet grace to the disconsolate and emotionally isolated Ryries.

Near the end of the film a familiar face shows up in a cameo. Rachel Dratch, long-time comedienne on “Saturday Night Live,” appears briefly as an agent interested in paintings created by Gordie’s late father.

This gently paced film, from a book by Leah Hager Cohen, was written for the screen and directed by Patrick Wang. Softly presented, it unfolds in the present and the past with slow double-exposed scenes that melt into one another and leave a bright afterthought of yellow.

“The Grief of Others” Is a lovely film that is scheduled for release in Los Angeles on November 2nd.

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