By Linda Marric @Linda_Marric

Depiction of grief on film can sometimes prove problematic if not handled with a certain amount of lucidity and nuance. As portrayed in Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester By The Sea, guilt can be a cataclysmic force capable of destroying anything standing in its way if not confronted head on. So what makes a film about grief more memorable than an other? To answer this question and more, here is a list of some of the most critically acclaimed films dealing with loss and grief.


10) Manchester By The Sea (2016)

In Manchester By The Sea Kenneth Lonergan manages to capture the essence of how grief can engulf someone’s life to the point of eclipsing everything else around them. Lonergan is no stranger to this subject, having played around with the same themes in his previous movies (You Can Count On Me, Margaret). Kacey Affleck is brilliant as Lee, a man who has to face up to his past in order to move on with his life. Not an easy watch, but a memorable study of the human condition.

9) Shadowlands (1993)

Adapted by William Nicholson from his own play, Shadowlands is based on the real life story of the romance between writer C.S Lewis and American poet Joey Gresham. Anthony Hopkins as Lewis is the shy and stuffy Oxford scholar brought out of his shell by outgoing extrovert Gresham (Debrah Winger). The story centres around grief and the acceptance of things we have no control over. When Gresham is diagnosed with terminal cancer, Lewis’s christian faith is put through the test as he finds the idea of losing her unfathomable.

8) Up (2009)

Featuring one of the most talked about opening sequences of all time, Pixar’s Up deals, amongst other things, with themes of adventure and dream fulfilment. More importantly, the film is about not letting grief get in the way of achieving your goals no matter how old you are. With a 10 minute montage that will have you sobbing your heart out, Up will remain one of the most iconic films of the 2000s.

7) Wild (2014)

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée and adapted by Nick Hornby from Cheryl Strayed’s autobiographical account, Wild tells the story of a young woman’s quest for closure after the untimely death of her mother Bobbi (Laura Dern) from cancer. Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) seeks to make a clean break from the destructive elements in her life by taking on a solo trek across the north American desert. This in turn forces her to confront her demons and ultimately allows her to finally grieve for her mother. Wild is a hugely affecting story told with commendable honesty and features all-round astounding performances from by Dern and Witherspoon.

6) Truly Madly Deeply (1990)

Witten and directed by Anthony Minghella as a commentary on grief and on how people deal with loss, Truly Madly Deeply was one of most loved films of the 90s. Alan Rickman stars as the handsome ghost of a recently departed musician kept in the land of the living by his lover’s refusal to let go of him. An enchanting love story and a beautiful study in loss and acceptance of death which will stay with you forever.

5) The Son’s Room (2001)

Nanni Moretti‘s The Son’s Room is about a family’s grief after the death of their son in a scuba diving accident. A beautifully haunting tale about the absence of the very thing that is making one’s life a living hell. Moretti manages to convincingly tell a story about missed opportunities and misplaced parental guilt. More than any other film about death, The Son’s Room manages to brilliantly evoke what it’s like to be changed by the tragic loss of a loved one, their absence speaks loudly than they ever did when they were alive.

4) Reign Over Me (2007)

Yes it is an Adam Sandler movie and no it’s not a gross-out comedy or even a poorly judged high concept movie. Written and directed by Mike Binder, Reign Over Me tells the story of a broken man who after losing his family in the September 11th attacks has to learn to love again. A beautiful performance from Sandler who has seldom been in anything worth mentioning since Punch Drunk Love.

3) We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)

Adapted by Lynne Ramsay from Lionel Shriver’s book, We Need to Talk About Kevin is the shocking tale of a monstrous child who commits a monstrous act. Tilda Swinton is astonishing as the woman consumed by guilt and grief for a boy she thought she knew. Ezra Miller is Kevin, a troubled teenager who grows up to break his mother’s heart by committing an unspeakable act.


2) Don’t Look Now (1973)

In Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now, Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie play the grieving parents who travel to Venice to get over the death of their young daughter. Based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier, who is no stranger to stories about death and loss, Don’t Look Now is a supernatural psychological thriller which deals with the fracture of a family after the death of a child. Roeg’s use of colour and disjointed editing style makes this into one of the most iconic films of all time.


1) Three Colours: Blue (1993)

Juliette Binoche is Julie a grieving wife and mother who wakes up in a hospital bed to discover that her husband and daughter have both been killed in a car crash in which she was the only survivor. As the first of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colour trilogy, Blue is one of the most thought provoking of the three films. After a failed suicide attempt, Julie takes it upon herself to move on with her life, she does this by cutting all ties with her friends and loved ones and moves away from anyone likely to remind her of the life she had before the accident.

Manchester By The Sea is on general release from Friday 13th of January.

More like this? See our list on Westerns that aren’t Westerns:

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