“Good Grief” opens at a Christmas party hosted by Marc (Levy) and his husband Oliver (Luke Evans), a famous writer whose books have been turned into massive blockbusters a la “The Hunger Games” or “Twilight.” In fact, he’s so beloved that he has to rush off to a book signing at the Louvre that very night, leaving the party early. Marc and the partygoers see the lights from the responding officers to the car crash that takes Oliver’s life, sending Marc into a spiral of grief. Marc has been here before, noting early in the film how he escaped the pain of his mother’s death when he started a relationship with Oliver. Marc also has a habit of trying to label himself, saying early on that he’s now an orphan and a widower. The best aspects of “Good Grief” try to deconstruct those simple terms, revealing how everyone is more complex than even they think they are.
The real drama of “Good Grief” comes a year after Oliver’s death, when Marc finally has the nerve to open his Christmas card from 12 months ago, only to discover that Oliver was confessing to an affair and wanted to talk about their future. What happens to grief when it collides with betrayal? A few other plot spins and Marc discovers that Oliver had an apartment in Paris, where he was headed to meet his lover the night he died. In an effort to close some emotional loops, Marc goes to France with his two best friends, Sophie (Ruth Negga) and Thomas (Himesh Patel), a pair who have struggled in their own lives, but seem to honestly want nothing but peace for their friend, even if he doesn’t tell them exactly why they’re going on this trip because, “movie”.
Levy has said that he wanted to make a film about a makeshift family, and that aspect comes through in the warm performances from the always-great Negga and Patel, but it’s also one of the script’s weaknesses in that you don’t get to fully know these characters as much as you should. Yes, they get their own growth arcs, but they’re largely mirrors for Marc, as is a new relationship that Marc falls into in Paris, which is when the film really starts to drag. The impetus to give Marc new love is understandable, but it feels forced, a way to let him define old relationships through a new one when a riskier version of “Good Grief” would allow him to find his own path in a less predictable way. Levy’s script too often seems as lost as Marc, grasping at plot threads and cliches to give it the momentum it often lacks.