Grace Is Gone (review)

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There are enough tender and nicely realized touches in this family drama to make you wish the overall effect was more, well, affecting. Not the least of which is John Cusack’s (Martian Child) refreshingly non-John Cusack-y turn as Stanley Philipps, a father unable to tell his little girls that their soldier mother has been killed in Iraq. Fans of the actor don’t come any more devoted than me, but no matter how much you love his usual snarky schtick, it’s wonderful to see him stretch as an artist, and he creates a lovely rapport with his young castmates (Shélan O’Keefe and Gracie Bednarczyk, both first-time performers) as he builds a wall of denial around Stanley’s own grief while pretending he’s sparing that of the children. The directorial debut of Lonesome Jim screenwriter James C. Strouse, the film — which won an Audience Award at Sundance last year — balances out politics without avoiding the larger issues, but focuses mostly on small details (like the cheap clock on the kitchen wall that keeps Iraq time) and pent-up emotion (like how Stanley signs a military form with his eyes closed). It all runs out of its own gentle steam, though, long before the inevitable ending.

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