A man (John Cusack) takes his two young daughters (Shélan O'Keefe, Gracie Bednarczyk) on a road trip while searching for a way to tell them that their mother, a soldier, has been killed in Iraq.
" 'Grace is Gone' works best in the quiet moments. ... Shelan O'Keefe couldn't be better ... this low-keyed weepie belongs to her. "
" A moving and tender family drama, built on the foundation of a serious contemporary issue. "
" Cusack has never been better; he disappears into his character's repressed skin so utterly, we can barely recognize in him the perky teen heartthrob of Say Anything. "
" Depicts a side of the Iraq war, the American home front, that has been barely touched in other Iraq war movies. "
" For most of its 85 minutes Grace Is Gone, a small, tender film about contemporary parenthood in wartime, carries off a delicate balancing act. "
" Grace Is Gone is a small film, but mostly in all the right ways. "
" In a year that has seen wave after wave of films addressing the war in Iraq with varying degrees of anger and frustration, Grace serves as a gently thoughtful coda and reminder of what continues. "
" Not a great movie, simply functional, but Cusack gives a great performance. "
" This is a very strong and very moving film. "
" A barbell of a movie that carries some weight at either end. What's in between is purely utilitarian, though. "
" Cusack's climactic confession is heartrending. But too many other moments strain credibility. "
" Despite the strength of the cast (in particular O'Keefe, who's making her film debut here and shows tremendous promise), it's hard to muster much enthusiasm for Grace Is Gone. "
" Good intentions can only go so far. "
" It's a narrative strategy that neither informs, challenges nor heals. "
" Rather than challenging our national aversion to unhappy endings, both in life and in cinema, [director] Strouse plays right into it. He's devised Grace Is Gone to work on our sentiments the way a porn movie works on our libidos. "
" This is a movie that lobs even appropriate criticisms from a safe distance, a flaw its strengths can't overcome. "
Grace is Gone is the story of Stanley Philips (John Cusack), the husband of a servicewoman who is killed in Iraq. Trying to find a way to tell his two young daughters that their mother has died, he decides to take them on a trip to an amusement park to give them one more happy memory before their lives change forever.
Written and directed by James C. Strouse (Lonesome Jim), Grace is Gone was the hot story at last year's Sundance Film Festival, for which reason I feel like I may have had impossibly high expectations for it. Don't get me wrong--it was good. Usually just appealing in and of himself, Cusack really steps into the character of the uptight, conservative, grief-stricken Stanley and the little girls who play his daughters are amazing--especially the older daughter, Shelan O'Keefe. But there were times when it felt almost too indie to me--bad lighting, things happening without enough emotional build, and the fact that the mechanics of their road trip (clothes changes, pit stops, seatbelts) were able to crawl into my consciousness. Somehow, I guess, as odd as this is to say, I expected it to be a bit sadder. But it's still a noteworthy effort.
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