Directing an episode of the sitcom you starred in for six seasons is one feat; however, writing and directing an original feature in which you also play the lead is a different challenge. “Schitt’s Creek” star Daniel Levy takes on this task with finesse in the New Year’s tearjerker, “Good Grief.” This film offers a substantial alternative to Netflix’s usual fluffy Christmas fare, marking a poignant start to 2024.
Released in the first week of January, “Good Grief” explores the lives of three friends shedding their old selves for the next chapter. Levy, known for his comedic talent, surpasses expectations, revealing a more serious and personal side. In his directorial debut, Levy plays Marc, a gay artist in his late 30s, dealing with the unexpected death of his A-list husband, Oliver (Luke Evans), after a holiday party. The film is more than a Paris trip advertised in the trailers; it’s a nuanced story that blends satisfying ’90s emotional depth with millennial bite, reminiscent of “Obvious Child.”
Handling Oliver’s death with fresh perspective, Levy avoids manipulative tactics, encouraging genuine emotional connection. Known for his snobby character in “Schitt’s Creek,” Levy evolves into a more serious storyteller. The film resonates with an audience conditioned to snarky irony, challenging the notion that sincerity is weak. While humor is present, “Good Grief” primarily addresses life’s painful aspects, such as death.
Levy, who established his hipster persona in “Schitt’s Creek,” navigates Marc’s rude awakening, crafting an emotional narrative resistant to ironic jabs. The film humorously addresses the complexities of life, with Levy showcasing his ability to put genuine feelings on display. While funny at times, “Good Grief” remains focused on confronting life’s painful realities.
The film introduces an emotional story that withstands the skepticism of an ironic generation. Despite the sarcasm often directed at sincerity, Levy courageously places genuine feelings at the forefront. While humor punctuates the film, its core revolves around facing life’s painful truths, particularly death.
Unlike many first features, “Good Grief” benefits from right-fit casting, with Luke Evans making a brief but impactful appearance in the first scene and a few flashbacks. The ensemble cast explores character nuances with subtlety, demonstrating that less can be more.
Marc’s memories portray Oliver as the ideal husband, and as Marc copes with the void left by both his partner and his deceased mother, the film reveals the impact of their relationship. The narrative unfolds over a year of coping, featuring Marc’s interactions with ex-boyfriend-turned-BFF Thomas (Himesh Patel) and the self-described “hot mess” Sophie (Ruth Negga). As the story unfolds, they discover a shocking revelation in a Christmas card, leading to a few days in Paris.
While Marc’s reconnection with painting plays a role in his healing, Levy introduces one of the most romantic scenes in any gay love story, set against the backdrop of Paris’ famous artworks. The film explores later-stage emotions, focusing on loss and dealing with more mature themes than the typical gay romance narrative.
In Paris, Marc meets Theo (Arnaud Valois), a well-connected French art connoisseur, and Levy skillfully weaves positive and negative qualities into the characters. The film avoids the clichéd route of using romance to solve Marc’s moving-on problems, opting for a more nuanced approach.
“Good Grief” stands out in the realm of gay cinema by addressing later-stage emotions and loss, joining a select list of films that explore these themes. Levy’s contemporary drama combines humor and sadness, acknowledging the supportive dynamics between characters while centering on the gay best friend, offering a fresh perspective. The characters feel well-rounded and real, adding depth to the film’s exploration of imperfections and the healing process. Levy’s vulnerability and wisdom shine through in “Good Grief,” showcasing his multifaceted talents beyond the realm of comedy.