SXSW Film Review: The Grief of Others

Wonderful performances buoy this story about a family's grief

The death of a child is tragic beyond measure. Hollywood has mined this territory before, often with maudlin results, but Patrick Wang’s adaptation of Leah Hager Cohen's novel The Grief of Others takes a more measured approach and is much the better for it.

Set in the Hudson River Valley, The Grief of Others explores one family in the wake of a tragedy such as this. John (Trevor St. John) and Ricky (Wendy Moniz) have tried to put it behind them, but things aren’t going smoothly. Their daughter Biscuit keeps acting out in increasingly dangerous ways, and son Paul has enough trouble as an overweight kid facing bullies at every turn.

The film begins with the arrival of John’s other daughter Jess (Sonya Harum), who shows up out of the blue, pregnant and directionless. She’s welcomed in, for the most part, but struggles with the underlying tension that pervades this home.

Harum’s acting carries much of the film, even in the presence of seasoned vets Moniz and St. John. Her interactions with local nice guy Gordie provide many of the film’s most compelling scenes, and the story ultimately becomes hers.

The subject matter could lead to a depressing viewing experience. That’s not the case here, and while the plot stalls at times, it’s a beautiful film wrapped around a heartbreaking event.

The Grief of Others

Narrative Competition, World Premiere
Thursday, March 19, noon, Alamo Lamar

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SXSW Film, SXSW Film 2015, The Grief of Others, Patrick Wang, Trevor St. John, Wendy Moniz, Sonya Harum, Leah Hager Cohen

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