A good friend once compared sadness to the abyss that makes us all fall at one point or another. He said it was all the same abyss. We stayed in it until we decided to get out or die there. Most people climb out, luckily. But it’s hard—especially when the loss is devastating and sudden. It’s even more difficult when you are a child who doesn’t fully understand what death is.
Adults don’t fully understand it either. Even when you have theology, philosophy, poetry, and art to help you, and even if you have been through it many times and know others who have been, there is still a black dot in the middle of your mental image—a part of the canvas that can never be filled, only recognized. That’s what you have to come to terms with.
And that is the focus of “Something Beautiful Left Behind”. Directed by Katrine Philp, who undertook the project in part to understand her own feelings about the loss of her father, the film is set in and near Good Grief, a suburban New Jersey facility that caters to children who have lost a parent, or both parents, all of them. . suddenly, and are struggling to process their emotions.
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How to describe a film without collapsing and never finishing this review?
I need this. I think you might need it too.
No narration. There is no talking head telling you what exactly the facility is, when it was founded, who runs it. Most of the main characters are children under 10 years old. The film takes time to introduce them. You learn a little about one of them, spend quality time with them and their guardians (could be moms, uncles, grandparents, anyone who works) while the other kids are support players, and at some point one of the kids. -Other children become the focus. But it’s always democratic, a continuum arranged so that we intuit, without needing any narrative grip, that this is all the same experience, that only the details change, that somehow, we’re up there on the screen. This is us.
Kids understand more than you think, but they don’t understand anything either, really. Again: it’s us. That is you.
The mundane always coexists with the tragic, the twisted, the terrible, but the juxtaposition comes here because of the way the camera shoots young children talking about their grieving experiences — depth mixed with innocence and sometimes with mundane, even humorous/ naive inadvertently word order.
One little girl in a grief circle said she was still sad to lose a parent, then followed up by complaining that her sister got a cell phone and she didn’t have one yet. A little boy named Nolan, 9, sits with his sister Nora, 10, and talks about the loss of their father, and refers to “when he died and we had the party,” which means memorial. Then their mother makes dinner for them, discussing the possibility of having a pet, perhaps a hamster or a lemur.
“Did you know that the earth moves slowly?” said a boy. “That’s why we don’t falter.”
Peter, 10, lost his father and mother. His father, he says, “took bad medicine”—the last two words are never explained by the film—and later his mother died in a car crash—nor is it ever detailed for us, though Peter and his uncle CJ frequently visit the wreck site where mourners have been buried. placing small markers, including a wooden cross.
“That’s where the tree is,” said Peter, pointing to an empty spot in the grass.
It’s Christmas during one of their visits.
“I love you, Mom, and I hope you don’t die,” the boy said to his mother, speaking to the memorial. ” Merry Christmas .”
“I don’t want you on the street,” CJ’s uncle warned.
The boy shifted a few steps to the left.
There is a little boy in this film whose face is so contorted with the pain of losing him that I can hardly bear to look at him. But I watched anyway, because I needed to see it. We all need to see it.
This is a black dot on the canvas, a void. This is suffering, in other people’s faces.
We’re not talking about death in this country—in many countries. Not if we can help him. It’s still considered rude. It makes people uncomfortable. And so many rituals around non-discussion feel mechanical, mandatory. Greetings are like boilerplate, cut-and-paste gibberish, even when we repeat them with sincere feelings. “Please accept my condolences.” “He’s in a better place.” “At least he doesn’t
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