Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Greatest

I saw this film at the Sundance Film Festival in January of 2009 and it was, in fact, ‘the greatest’ film I saw there.  It wasn’t initially at the top of my list of films to see at the festival, but because it fit my schedule I tried it out and it blew me away.  Pierce Brosnan and Susan Sarandon play devastated parents who have just lost their son in a car accident.  Carey Mulligan (‘An Education’, ‘Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps’, ‘Never Let Me Go’) plays the son’s girlfriend and Johnny Simmons (‘Jennifer’s Body’) plays his brother.  All four are dealing with their grief in different ways.

Unfortunately this film didn’t do very well in its limited release in theaters earlier this year, and was just quietly released on DVD a few months ago.  The heartbreaking subject matter is way too heavy for most, especially those with kids of their own.  But the cast is superb.  Both Brosnan and Sarandon shine, giving very emotional performances.  And most of the rest of the cast is great too, including Michael Shannon (‘Revolutionary Road’, HBO’s ‘Boardwalk Empire’) as the felon who was responsible for their son’s death.

First time writer/director Shana Feste, who was only 33 at the time of the film’s release, did a magnificent job.  She shows a tremendous amount of understanding and maturity regarding the subject of grief, considering her limited life experience.

Brosnan produced the film, and he has a pretty good track record for finding smaller quality projects.  His last few were ‘Shattered’, ‘The Matador’, ‘The Laws of Attraction’, and ‘Evelyn’.  These are all quality films to check out.

And the shooting locations in Nyack, New York were beautiful to watch.  The film was shot by John Bailey who also shot some other classic films about grief, like ‘The Big Chill’ and ‘Ordinary People’.

I have only one issue with the film and that is the casting of the dead son, played by Aaron Johnson, seen in numerous flashbacks.  I think they dropped the ball in casting Johnson.  In my opinion, he was absolutely wrong for the part of the kid every girl wanted and every guy wanted to be.  Fortunately he’s not in too much of the film.

So, will the Oscars recognize this film in any way?  Not a chance.  Will anyone reading this check it out?  Probably not.  But it is ‘the greatest’, so if you’re into this type of melodrama give it a try.  And if you do check it out, bring tissues.

Grade:  A

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