Sunday, July 5, 2009

Grace is Gone

Originally uploaded by Alessandra Ogeda
Grace Phillips is a dedicated Army serviceman currently away in Iraq, back at home her husband and retired Army-man himself, Stanley works and takes care of their two daughters Heidi & Dawn. Unsure how to interact with the two girls all three are in a holding pattern waiting for Grace to come home again and restore their family unit. However, one morning before work Stanley is visited by the TAPS officers and told that Grace has been killed in action. Unable to voice this to his daughters Stanley instead takes Heidi on an unexpected trip to an amusement park in Florida while he tries to figure out how to tell the girls that Grace is gone.

I don’t cry at movies, but when if finally came time for Stanley to tell the girls Grace was dead I cried. Grace is Gone is a very moving film and I am honestly surprised that it is James C. Strouse’s directorial debut. This film is a hard sell, and an emotional watch and Strouse handles it with deft hands.

I was greatly impressed by the talents of Shelan O’Keefe as Heidi Phillips. As the older daughter, Heidi has taken on an adult role worrying about her mother, taking care of her sister and doubting her father; despite Stanley’s best efforts he cannot seem to keep her from growing up too fast. However, when Stanley takes the girls on his road trip Heidi slowly begins to realize something is wrong, but her childhood naivety comes into play and she never locks onto the truth that her mother is dead until Stanley finally tells them. Despite her age O’Keefe plays Heidi with a subtlety that very few child actors have, and I’d like to see her in more as I would compare her to Anna Paquin in The Piano.

John Cusack also gave an incredible performance in Grace is Gone. The pain, joy, pride, shock and agony that Stanley goes through during his journey is brilliant to watch and I would have nominated Cusack for the performance. His performance reads like a performance of love and not a performance for recognition.

Director & Writer: James C. Strouse
Stanley Phillips: John Cusack
Heidi Phillips: Shelan O’Keefe
Dawn Phillips: Gracie Bednarczyk

Stanley Phillips: It's important that people have their own views based on an understanding of facts. But, it's also important not to trust the facts, because most of them are lies.
Heidi Phillips: I don't get it.
Stanley Phillips: It basically comes down to a gut thing. You just have to be open to allowing for a truth which differs from your own opinions. Or else you'll never actually see the truth at all.

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