To say that I was prepared for emotion would be an understatement. I’d seen the trailer, understood the narrative, adored Schitt’s Creek, obviously, and had the tissues at the ready.
And boy did I need them.
Good Grief was released on Netflix as a New Year’s gift that no one saw coming, but one that we all needed to receive – wrapped and ready to deliver. A delicate voyage of cinematic story-telling and thought-provoking structure that is to be expected from Dan Levy, who directs and stars in the 1 hour 40-minute drama, navigating loss.
Levy’s lead character, Marc, loses his husband almost instantly (not a spoiler – don’t panic) and then has to deal with the aftermath of both his feelings, and his findings, from the open relationship that he’d agreed to years before, potentially unaware of the truth that he’d signed up to. The rollercoaster of emotions, discoveries and secrets that follow, will leave you wet faced, surprised and even empathetic for the characters you’d least expect, Yes, I’m talking about the ‘other man,’ bless him. Including a scene that will leave you, even the tone death among us, desperately longing to be part of Luke Evan’s annual festive chorus. Goals.
A journey, or perhaps a quest, that takes the audience to Paris with Marc’s closest friends, to find clarity in the muddiness of loss and its unanswered questions – and the ripple it can have on a life. Bringing together stand-out performances from Ruth Negga and Himesh Patel – playing both hilarious and fragile allies to Levy’s Marc. With both compelling characters written beautifully to draw us in, and mise-en- scene that comes together like poetry, it is a movie that does not disappoint.
Simply put, it’s stunning. Chef’s kiss.
However, what I had assumed would be a film that I’d merely weep at and love, like every relationship that we will encounter, nothing is that simple. And, as depicted through a mouth-watering script and storyline, Good Grief highlights that life and loss is far from straight forward. Because once you start to unravel secrets, realities and face truths that we’d rather not acknowledge through its story, questions begin to surface.
In a world (and queer community,) where we make our own relationship rules, with open possibilities… as I watched through a rush of pain and frustration, leaping off the screen into my mind, tugging on my heart, it left me thinking… if you open the door, can you ever truly close it?
For years I’ve tussled with this question. As I’ve witnessed multiple friends or lovers opt for an open relationship, or consider it as an option, I’ve wondered what repercussions could eventually come. Is it as honest and clear as we hope, or fraught with issues that can break down decades of love? There are both strong arguments for and against being open, neither are wrong, and if it works, it’s a choice to make that should never be judged. There are also many versions of being open – rules we set. Rules people are comfortable with. But what Good Grief highlights is this, what would happen if one half of that pair blurs those rules and ignores the line? Can you ever close the door?
As most will concur, any relationship comes with baggage, arguments and compromise. We don’t necessarily need to change completely, but there are elements of adapting to your partner. Through Marc’s character, we can see clearly that to him, open means giving his husband the freedom, but hoping that he doesn’t choose to use it. A vow of trust and faith, potentially a decision thrust upon him to keep his relationship where he wants it, and certainly not expecting what it unravels to be.
Definition: Open relationship – a marriage or relationship in which both partners agree that each may have sexual relations with others.
Many would argue that – if you are going to cheat, you’ll cheat – and an open situation just allows for this human normality/error. For lots of couples, it is something that works and keeps them together. I have friends who state they are stronger for it. I know couples that will only open when together, and others that only do it overseas. Some will do it and agree not to ever discuss it, others lay it all out on the table. For many, it works. And, even from my monogamous hopes, I can see valid reasons as to why it would.
And yet, I can’t stop thinking about the cost of opening up. Perhaps I’ve romanticised relationships in my head, or I’m nostalgic for an ‘old fashioned’ way, but in an already challenging world, are we giving ourselves more opportunity to break our hearts? Can we both come to a comfortable agreement that is 50/50 and unbreakable? I’m not sure.
Which side of the door are we truly on?
What is clear to me is this, no relationship is the same. Communication is key. We should never judge. But much like the lead in this beautiful movie that I encourage everyone to watch, we need to be honest on how comfortable we are with being open. It raised a question in my own previous relationship history, wondering if I knew entirely the pairing that I’d signed up for. Remember to always ask yourself how happy you are with what you have. It’s ok if we aren’t. For plenty, it will work, for others it won’t. For some it’s a requirement and for many it will be a red flag.
Relationships are a joy, but a beast that we continue to work at. Whatever one you are in, make sure you are comfortable with the fit and are happy. And sometimes, grief, in whatever form it comes, really is good, not in the loss, but in the clarity that it can bring on knowing where our line is drawn.
Good Grief, good work.