Grace Is Gone
R1 - America - Genius Products
Review written by and copyright: Rob Fields (25th May 2008).
The Film

Have you ever had any military personnel come to your house and tell you that a loved one who was really close to you had been killed in a war? Personally, no, I haven’t. However, I know that for a great many the answer is quite the opposite. It can have emotional effects on those who are impacted by the news. And here we have a film dealing with such situations, “Grace Is Gone”. John Cusack plays such a character. This film gives just ONE possibility of how a person reacts upon receiving such news to deal with. I know that in any cases, it’s not something that I would wish on anyone – no matter how bad somebody may have wronged me. However, this review is not about me here. This is about a character named Stanley Phillips. I’m quite interested to see just how this particular story plays out. So, I’ll watch it and then let you know whether or not it’s worth the view.

“Grace Is Gone” (1:25:08), In one of his most acclaimed performances, John Cusack makes an astonishing transformation as Stanley Phillips, a sad, disconnected man unable to tell his young daughters that their mother, a soldier, has died in Iraq. Instead, he takes the girls on a road trip, where their innocent charm helps him rediscover a healing joy he thought he’d lost forever.

From the film's synopsis, I like where the story is going. In the opening scene Stanley Philips is trying to take care of his two daughters by himself while his wife is away fighting the war in Iraq. Then, two military people show up at his front door. From there, the story takes a different direction than most would anticipate. You would think that Stanley would suddenly go into turmoil upon hearing this news...you know, sobbing and saying 'it’s not fair'...Well, he doesn’t do that. Does he? For the sake of remaining spoiler free I’ll not share what actually transpires, you’ll just have to see the movie to find that part out for yourself. What I will say is that the story unfolds into a road trip with Stanley and his daughters heading to an amusement park. I like how Stanley tries so hard to cope with the news that he was just delivered. It even builds up to the climax. After all, he still has yet to tell his daughters. How and when they find out is the interesting part. QUITE interesting, in fact. Oh, and of course this is an independent film, so you know that the story’s basically going to be a good one and not bogged down by clichéd Hollywood dynamics.

Cusack definitely planed his part well. You could tell that Stanley was doing everything he could to try and keep it together while he and the girls were on the road trip. You could tell that Stanley was ready to come apart at anytime. That was the interpretation I got from Cusack's portrayal of this role. In other words, he was very convincing. Especially when Stanley had an altercation with his brother at their Grandma's house. As for the children (Shélan O’Keefe and Gracie Bednarczyk), they played their parts well. You could tell that even though they were children, they knew something was not right when it came to their mother. There are convincing performances from all concerned. My final word: I think I’ve said everything there is to be said. It’s definitely worth the purchase.

Video

The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen format (1.85:1 ratio). The picture looks great. I can’t really see if there’s any film grain, so it’s possible that it might have been shot on digital. There are no signs of any noticeable defects. The colors are especially vibrant in the last act. This disc has a chapter selection menu in case you want to go to your favorite scene or just pick up where you left off later on.

Audio

The film features an English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack. There are optional English (hard-of-hearing) and Spanish subtitles available. The mix is evenly distributed throughout all of the speakers. The background music is quite evident (not overshadowing). You can even hear some of the background noise toward the rear speakers.

Extras

Genius Products has released this film along with three featurettes, the film’s theatrical trailer and a series of bonus trailers. With the exception of the bonus trailers, all extras have optional English (hard-of-hearing) subtitles. Read further for insight into these extras.

The first of the three featurettes “A Conversation On Grace” runs 7 minutes and 4 seconds. Writer/Director James C. Strouse talks about the story he wanted to write. He writes it not from his own experience, but those of loves ones close to him. You get comments from Cusack. There are clips from the film to emphasize some of the points made. You also get comments from the kids that co-star. The director also tells you what the purpose for Cusack’s character was.

The second featurette “The Inspiration for Grace Is Gone” runs 6 minutes and 41 seconds. This clip deals with families who have loves ones who are in war, or who have lost love ones to such. The story here is a husband who has a couple of kids. The husband ends up losing her to war, not in the same way (that we know of) as in the film itself. The husband talks about it. You can tell that he is still saddened, even though he tries to hide it. The interesting part was that he had received a call from Cusack before he started filming “Grace Is Gone”.

The final featurette “Profile of T.A.P.S., A Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors” runs 3 minutes and 26 seconds. Basically, this starts out with Sgt. Brian Buckwalter of the Pentagon as he talks about this program. Along the way, you get to hear the story about Ami Neiberger-Miller's horror story about how she got the news of losing a loved one. She is a public affairs officer for T.A.P.S. After telling her story, she explains how she got involved with T.A.P.S. and what the purpose of the program is: to help provide support for those who have have lost loved ones in times of war. This featurette was originally presented on the Pentagon Channel.

The original theatrical trailer for the film runs 2 minutes and 20 seconds.

Finally there's bonus trailers that play before the Main Menu only and include:

- "Thetruth.com" anti-tobacco spot which runs for 1 minute 3 seconds.
- "Where In the World Is Osama Bin-Laden?" which runs for 1 minute 58 seconds.
- "Cassandra’s Dream" runs for 2 minutes 15 seconds.
- "The Great Debaters" runs for 2 minutes 31 seconds.
- "Delirious" which runs for 2 minutes 17 seconds.

It’s too bad that there wasn’t an audio commentary track. It would have been nice to have heard comments from those who would be a part of it.

Overall

The Film: A+ Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: B- Overall: A-

 


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