Daniel Levy makes directorial debut for Netflix – The Hollywood Reporter

The London and Paris locations are beautiful, all the favorite actors look stylish in their heavy coats and slouchy pants and distressed knits, and countless teary-eyed close-ups are designed to tug at our heartstrings. but netflix good griefDespite its characters’ extensive self-exploitation, it’s all superficial, entirely watchable but a little dull. Worked both behind and in front of the camera after directing episodes schitt’s creek, Daniel Levy’s first feature film is a dazzling drama of love and loss and the restorative power of friendship. But it’s more serious than impressive.

The opening scene makes this, if not a Christmas movie, a Christmas-adjacent movie. Levy plays Mark, a London artist who returns to work as an illustrator in a best-selling series of fantasy novels written by her beloved husband, Oliver (Luke Evans), about telepathic truth-seeker Victoria Valentine. Have left my creative work for this. has been turned into a major film franchise.

good grief

Bottom-line

Nothing very deep here.

Release date: Friday, December 29
Mould: Daniel Levy, Ruth Negga, Himesh Patel, Luke Evans, Celia Imrie, David Bradley, Arnaud Valois, Mehdi Baki, Emma Corrin, Kaitlyn Dever
Director-Screenwriter: Daniel Levy

Rated R, 1 hour 40 minutes

Before a book signing in Paris, Oliver oversees the annual singalong segment of their holiday party, and leads guests in a gorgeous choral arrangement of William Bell’s seasonal classic, “Everyday Will Be Like a Holiday.” This is the most emotional moment of the film. But Mark had just said goodbye when flashing lights from the road outside revealed an accident involving Oliver’s taxi.

Mark’s devastating loss, which comes shortly after his mother’s death, leaves him clinging tightly to his chosen family – alcoholic, boho-chic Sophie (Ruth Negga) and unhappily single ex-boyfriend Thomas (Himesh Patel). Already, at Oliver’s funeral, when the actress who starred as Victoria in the films (Kaitlin Dever) speaks at the service, wearing a wildly inappropriate outfit and making it all about her, tonal uncertainty arises. She goes. It’s a jarring bit of heavy-handed satire that feels out of place. Oliver’s father (David Bradley) gets things back on track in an impassioned speech delivered with painful tenderness.

Mark makes the disturbing discovery from the couple’s accountant (Celia Imrie) that Oliver has a pied-à-terre in Paris, which ultimately leads him to open the Christmas card her husband left her that fateful night. Was assigned earlier. What he learns forces him to rethink his entire marriage and seems to make fun of the year he has spent in grief. Keeping the information to himself, he invites Sophie and Thomas to spend a weekend with him in the French capital, ostensibly as thanks for their loving support.

Similar situations in which widowed spouses confront their late partners’ secrets have been explored in films such as Kieslowski’s Euro auteur dramas. Three colors: blue To forgettable studio efforts like Sydney Pollack random hearts,

But Levi’s interest in that eye-opening discovery goes only this far. Ultimately, external factors leave Mark with no choice but to fill in the missing details for Sophie and Thomas, by which time the focus has shifted to the emotional stagnation in all three’s lives. Their mutual resentment comes to the fore while riding the giant Ferris wheel in the Place de la Concorde against the backdrop of the twinkling night sky of Paris.

The fancy location for that scene — like an after-hours trip to the Orangerie with a romantic Frenchman (Arnaud Valois) to see Monet’s “Water Lilies” — is typical of a film that frames familiar relationship drama in superficial ways. , while very few progress beyond that. Nonsense or pop-psych talk about how we deal with grief or how indispensable trusted friends can be in dealing with emotional crises.

The shimmering sadness of Rob Simonsen’s score often suggests a depth of emotion that is missing in the writing and, by extension, the performances. The script is sensitive, but never deeply probing, and the film’s intimacy is more staged than lived-in. Sophie puts Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” on the turntable and raises a glass to “Fucking Pain!” This is so ridiculous that it cannot be anything but lip service.

Like Dever’s ill-fitting cameo, Emma Corrin pops up for a thankless moment as a performance artist, entangled in a web of knitting in a London warehouse gallery space. But other than showing the three friends in their artistic surroundings, the scene adds nothing.

Maybe there is something to be thought here about grief as a path to introspection and creative rebirth. There is certainly no reason to question the sincerity of Levi’s intentions. But he hasn’t managed to turn all that emo talk into compelling drama, creating a film that’s passable as streaming fodder (it comes to Netflix on January 5 after a week in select theaters), though you may have to Not specific enough to charm and make you care too much about its characters.

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