Grace Is Gone (2007) Poster


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A Nutshell Review: Grace is Gone
DICK STEEL27 March 2008
John Cusack is one of the character actors I admire. And in Grace is Gone, it centers upon his ability to bring you into his character's world. He really transformed himself into the role of Stanley Philipps with his thick glasses, walking with an instep, and that little hunch and a paunch, and delivers probably one of his finer touches in disappearing into a character that's so everyday average joe. He's a salaryman earning his keep while watching over his two girls while Mrs Grace Philipps (Dana Lynne Gilhooley) is a career soldier who gets her tour of duty in Iraq.

The crux of the entire story laid on the premise of Stanley trying to find the appropriate moment to tell his children about the unfortunate demise of their mother, while at the same time fighting hard to accept the bitter truth that the woman he loves is gone. More so of course when it is revealed later some things that can no longer be reversed in time, which makes it all the more sad, and regrettable.

But we also learn more about Stanley through the eyes of his children, when they throw the occasional tantrum, or have issues to deal with. Shelan O'Keefe as Heidi the older daughter, is a remarkable actress, lending some gravitas to her role when it called for it, and holds her own opposite Cusack very well. Gracie Bednarczyk as younger daughter Dawn I guess was just being herself, injecting much needed effervescence to counter the heavy drama that circulates throughout the movie.

Besides some expected and really moving scenes in the movie, some from plot devices, while others from the characters themselves, writer-director James C. Strouse also managed to sneak in a comment or two about War and Truth, which is what we make it up to be, most of the time. Alessandro Nivola also turned in a rather short but nice performance behind that heavily bearded appearance as the brother of Stanley and the children's uncle.

If I need another plus point to recommend Grace is Gone, then it will be the score by Clint Eastwood (yes, what a surprise when the end credits rolled), punctuating the story neatly when it called for it. All in all, a story without any major plot twists (since the title already said it all), simple yet effective, and hinged very much on excellent acting to bring the characters to life.
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A Graceful Journey
Willemite17 December 2007
I found the film to be a very sensitive, low-key portrayal of a father having to learn to communicate with his children after his soldier wife is killed in Iraq. It is not political. Cusack's character is an uncritical believer in authority, while his opposite number is shown as an immature oppositionist, lacking grounding in the real world. In their political discussion, both make valid points but neither view is the focus of the film. This is a family tale, with the twist that it is a guy having to cope with losing a soldier spouse, not a woman. Coping here means telling his children that their mother is gone, and his struggle is not exactly new ground. Kramer vs Kramer is the obvious example of a father learning how to cope with fatherhood. Grace, however, shows a pretty decently coping Dad from the git-go. His struggle is more focused. Unable to bear telling his daughters the bad news, and unable to face it himself, he takes them on a fantasy trip to a Disneyworld stand-in, driving from Minnesota to Florida. As with most road trips this is a journey of discovery for him and particularly for his older, 12-year-old daughter. Ultimately, he finds the voice in which to speak the painful words. Cusack is masterful in his portrayal of the struggling widower. The young actresses playing his daughters are completely convincing. One thing that stands out is the minimalist Clint Eastwood score. It supports the sorrowful tale and seems almost to be trying to sooth the grieving father. This is not a cheery, feel good flick in which everyone goes home with a smile on, but it is a satisfying film that offers a realistic portrayal of regular people coping with a very harsh reality.
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Have Grace on Cusack! Give this man an Oscar already!
meeza12 November 2008
My goodness gracious! John Cusack has to be one of the most underrated actors in the history of cinema. He has graced us with his witty banter and thespian charisma in such classics as "Say Anything", "High Fidelity", "Bullets Over Broadway", "The Grifters", "Being John Malkovich", and "Grosse Pointe Blank". To think that this legendary actor has never been nominated for an Oscar is unbearable to deal with! I accuse the Academy for having a case of the Cusack Snubbing Syndrome. In "Grace is Gone", the inevitable occurred again! Cusack delivered another worthy Oscar nominated performance and once again the Academy snubbed Johnny C. In the film, Cusack plays Stanley Phillips a home supply manager and father of two young girls. Stanley's wife Grace is a Sergeant in the U.S. Army who is killed in Iraq on duty. Stanley now has the painful duty of telling his young daughters Heidi & Dawn that their mom has passed. Stanley temporarily passes on the aforementioned duty, and decides instead to take his daughters on a road trip to their favorite amusement park "Enchanted Gardens". The acting of "Grace is Gone" was on duty! I already mentioned the brilliance of Cusack! In "Grace is Gone", he plays Stanley as a man who rightfully loves his country and believes in honoring your duty; but also as a loving father who authentically grieves for his wife's passing. Shelan O' Keefe and Gracie Bednarczyk also delivered genuine roles as the Phillips' girls. And I especially enjoyed another underrated actor Alessandro Nivola's performance as Stanley's anti-war but caring brother John. The only pitfall of "Grace is Gone" was its spontaneous dreary scenes. First time Writer-Director James Strouse's effort was somewhat commendable but it is evident that he is a rookie filmmaker, and in due time the disgrace of Strouse's overextended scenes will be gone in his signature direction. Nevertheless, I do recommend "Grace is Gone"! Why you ask? Mostly because of the Cusack! *** Average
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Sad, Beautiful, Brilliant- "Grace" Remains With the Viewer
asam312231 May 2008
"Grace is Gone" is a very sad, but important film. Until I read about it on IMDb, I had no idea that it was being made. Very subtley, it slipped in and out of theaters. Finally, I found it at Blockbuster and picked it up to watch with my family. At the end, my family remarked on how sad the movie is. They are very right with this comment. In fact, this may be one of the saddest, but beautiful films I've ever seen. It takes a situation that every parent may face and turns it into a beautiful story about family and love.

Stanley Phillips is a dad taking care of his two daughters while their wife and mother, Grace, is in Iraq in the Army. When the news comes one day that Grace has been killed overseas, Stanley is left alone and clueless as to how to tell his daughters that their mother is not coming home. As a way of avoiding the conversation, Stanley takes the girls on a trip to Enchanted Gardens, an amusement park that looks similar to Disney World.

The plot, with Clint Eastwood's beautiful score and James Strouse's great writing and directing, brings the viewer a subtle and beautiful film. "Grace is Gone" definitely stays with the viewer.

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John Cusack takes the cake
erin_gafford17 October 2007
John Cusack was excellent in this role. I saw a side of him that I never expected possible. His characters are usually intelligent and witty with sarcastic undertones, but this film shows a side of his versatility that has never surfaced before. He plays a father of two that is struggling to find a common ground. His military background leaves little commonality between himself and his daughters. The devastating loss of his wife, and the mother of his children force this character in a place that few have ever been. After an entire childhood of emotional absents, his children finally see the softer side of their father as he struggles to tell them of the untimely death of their mother. It was truly an emotional roller coaster.
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Great Sense of Loss
fruitjunk21 October 2007
I get the feeling that people who do not like this movie wanted some large seen where John Cusack's character tells what he is thinking. I'm confused at this. If we wanted to watch movies where characters laid out their thoughts verbatim we wouldn't have an opportunity to infer our own emotions on the situation. I would have been upset if this filmed decided to tackle the issue of war instead of the issue of how modern loss can effect us. This is a film about being put on pause. When we are shaken out of our sense of normalcy how do we cope. In this case, how do you explain the loss you cannot comprehend to your children. I think that this film is powerful in it's absent of the affectation of the outside world. You have a man who insulates himself from the events and in that case you have something a lot more honest. If the film had chosen to attack those issues i think the depth of loss would have been shattered. This isn't an anti-war nor pro-war film. I think that if you go in expecting that you will dislike immensely. This is a film about normalcy and our failure to cope. I think it works. I think wanting it to do something it isn't trying to do is an incorrect way to view this film.
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Great Movie
mneveldine5 September 2007
I absolutely loved this movie, I thought it was a very touching story that covers a very hard topic. John Cusak, Allessandro Nivola and the two little girls were all fantastic in the movie. It is such a simple story, but it hits home in a very big way. This is a movie that should be seen by everyone. It has so many human elements that I believe will make it a very important film for many years to come. It does not take a political stance. It is about life. The loss of life, and the effects of war. It does not force you to take a political stance, just a look at your own humanity and how you might deal with the tragic loss of a loved one. I am the first person to go and see a high budget action film and turn my brain off to enjoy, but some times its nice to leave your brain on in a movie.
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McGonigle8 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This movie won the Audience Award for dramatic film at Sundance 2007 (and a screen writing award), but I found it to be the most disappointing and shallow of the films I saw at the festival. John Cusack gives a great performance as Stanley, a father who's trying to figure out how to tell his two daughters (8 and 12) that their mother has been killed in the Iraq War. The movie is a big-time tearjerker, but aside from the broad-stroke melodrama, I found it to be emotionally vacant.

We're never given any real indication of what's going on in Stanley's head. At one point, his hippie dropout brother (Stanley is a conservative war supporter) provides some helpful exposition about Cusack and his late wife, but the writer/director never seems to have heard of the "show, don't tell" rule. The only concrete demonstrations of Stanley's distress we ever get are a series of shots of him staring into space. We never find out if Stanley's political beliefs have been challenged (or strengthened) by his experience, or whether his belief that his wife died fighting a just cause made it any easier (or harder) to cope with his loss.

In fact, the movie seems to have decided to portray Stanley's emotional confusion by not having him express any emotion at all, and the only insight we gather is that it's really, really, really, really, really hard to tell your children that their mother has died.

And in the end, any tears generated are not due to any particular skill in writing or directing, but simply because of the audience's reaction to how horrible it is for ANY parent to have to tell their young children that their other parent has died. To me, that's a cheat; the movie doesn't provide any sort of insight into Stanley's feelings and relies on the audience to provide all the emotion.

Cusack supplies a fine performance with the limited material he's been given (as do the two daughters), but this movie doesn't supply much else besides cheap tears. Watch for it to become a monster hit and pick up a basket of Oscar nominations.
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A good film that could have been great.
se7en1876 August 2007
I saw this at the Traverse City Film Festival.

Grace is Gone stars John Cusack as a husband whose wife has just been killed in Iraq. He doesn't have the courage to tell his two young daughters that their mother has died, so instead he decides to take them on a road trip, perhaps not to just make it easier on the girls but to make it easier for himself.

This film was pretty good but I felt it was flat at parts and some tears were forced. It didn't have as much emotion as I thought it would have. John Cusack does a great job acting in the film, but most of the time his character is just trying to hide the sadness from his daughters. Some scenes drag on and others don't seem to really fit in with the rest of the story.

My favorite scene in the film takes place in a store and involves the younger daughter wandering off on her own. The scene is so subtle and the drama isn't as obvious as other parts in the film, but it's quite an emotional scene. I wish the rest of the film had moments like that.

Politics aren't really discussed much in the film, at least not as much as I thought there was going to be. However, when it does, it goes with the typical cliché of family members differing in beliefs and trying to get their own point across. People will probably be interested in this film because of the subject matter and the modern storyline, but apart from the cause of death of the wife, the war is never really mentioned. In a way, that's why this film doesn't work at times. Apart from the one scene with his anti-war brother, Cusack's character never gets a chance to express his emotions and regrets because he's always with his children.

Nonetheless, as a film about a father trying to reveal to his children the death of their mother, it's a good film. But if you're seeing the film because it involves the war in Iraq, you'll be disappointed because the war is hardly mentioned.
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Realistic look at how the wars impact real families.
TxMike11 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
John Cusack stars as the working man whose wife, Grace, is in the military, and serving a tour of duty in Iraq. They have two young daughters, 8 and almost 13, and he does the best he can to raise them without mom.

The youngest girl and their mom have their watches set to beep at the same time each day, and both of them take a moment to think about the other.

Worst fears come true when the military guys show up at their home, to tell him that Grace has been killed, she will not come home alive. Struck with grief and totally unprepared to accept it himself, and even less prepared to tell his daughters.

So he decides to take a road trip to a theme park in Florida. Eventually he learns to accept the truth, and to talk to his daughters.

Good movie. It really is about how the surviving spouse, in this case the husband, might cope with such a tragic loss.
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A non-partisan look at what war does
audracrane18 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Some users have commented that the film barely mentions Iraq, I would disagree. It is true that the film is centered on the death of Cusack's wife rather than the manner of it, but that's what makes it more compelling and heart-rending. The film is all about Iraq because it shows the fall-out of the war for one family. There is a fair bit of commentary as well, it is simply subtle. The film deals with issues of patriotism and what that means to different people, ego and sacrifice, and of course, how do you tell your children mommy isn't coming home? Cusack did an absolutely brilliant job portraying this tense, hunched man and allowing the audience to see him grow a little bit in self-awareness throughout the film. There is no hugely dramatic moment when he screams, 'my whole life has been based on a misconception!', but it's also hard to imagine that he hasn't begun to move away from his old belief system. It's not hard to portray someone who is coming unglued loudly, it is hard to create a subtle character and touch the audience with his pain and self. I thought Cusack's decision to physically play the character as he did, was really interesting. Cusack is a big man and his character is meant to be ex-military himself, so it would be obvious to play him fairly macho and strident. Instead, Cusack plays him as this gawky, physically 'small' and fumbling man with a soft (though firm) voice and manner. Really interesting.
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"Over There" is felt "Over Here"
fwomp6 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Looking for a good tear-jerker? You could hardly find one better than GRACE IS GONE. Topical. Family oriented. It is something of a surprising role for John Cusack who started his career with low-brow comedies (BETTER OFF DEAD and ONE CRAZY SUMMER). But this independent gem shows that Cusack has the wherewithal to spot a solid, dramatic part and run with it. Although Cusack has done some off-and-on stand-up work, things like THE ICE HARVEST and PUSHING TIN were a bit thin on character. But not so here.

And, even more surprising, the film brings two unknowns to play alongside Cusack. The two are also very young girls who show that Dakota Fanning (CHARLOTTE'S WEB) isn't the only young gal who can act her heart out. Shélan O'Keefe stars as Heidi Phillips, Stanley Phillips' (Cusack's) eldest daughter and does so with astonishing ...grace. Trying to find her way into adolescence while watching her father implode is quite nicely portrayed. Her first attempts at smoking and her nighttime wanderings are something many parents will be able to identify with.

Stanley's younger daughter Dawn is played by newcomer Gracie Bednarczyk, and her portions where she's jousting with her older sister are spot on. Not understanding what's happening to their family is significant in that someone of her age truly wouldn't know. But the suspicions of her elder sister set her on edge ...just a tad.

Grace is Gone is a very good war film. And by war I mean a film that focuses on its impact on the home-front. When Stanley (Cusack) learns of his wife's death in Iraq, it takes some mental juggling for him to come to terms with what that means for him and his two young daughters. This is the crux of the story. When Stanley can't release the information to his kids, he hides it by taking them to a fun theme park many miles away. It seems he wants his kids to have fun before breaking the worst news of their lives to them ...and, in a sense, re-breaking it to himself. Stanley loses sight of what he needs to do, and even becomes a bit delusional (he calls his own home to tell his dead-wife that he and the kids are okay, etc.).

The gut-wrenching scene when Stanley MUST tell the kids what happened to their mother is one of the hardest things any parent will ever have to watch. The musical score comes up over the voice of Stanley and we don't get to hear everything he says, which we don't need to; we can see it on the children's' faces. A truly powerful moment that will linger with you for many days, if not weeks.

It is noteworthy to mention how topical this film is since the war in Iraq seems far from over. Men and women continue to die "over there" and when that might end is anyone's guess. But one thing is for certain, the traumas felt "over there" definitely ripple "over to here". And that's something that this film shows us exceptionally well.
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Cusack delivers in this excellent film on grief & family bonding
george.schmidt4 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
GRACE IS GONE (2007) *** John Cusack, Shelan O'Keefe, Gracie Bednarczyk, Alessandro Nivola, Marisa Tomei. Cusack, in one of his strongest performances, stars as a father of two young daughters who learns their mother, a soldier away in the Iraq war, has been killed, and his paralyzing fear of telling them the news leads to an unlikely road trip instead. Novice filmmaker James C. Strouse, who also penned the screenplay, displays remarkable restraint in what could easily have been a mawkish TV movie with skill and Cusack delivers the goods in a low-key yet heartbreaking turn. The political underpinnings are not belabored and the young actresses balance out the tragic plottings.
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A fine tribute to those who die in war and those left to mourn.
seadevil-17 August 2008
This is a moving story of a man whose wife, a soldier, is killed in Iraq, and the almost unbearable task placed on him to tell his two daughters, aged 9 and 12, the terrible news. John Cusack played the part of the of the husband of the dead wife, and father of the girls, superbly. I tried to put myself in his position, having to break the news of their mother's death to the two youngsters, and it almost brought me to tears, as the end of the movie actually did.

This movie is a fitting tribute to the young Americans who fight and sometimes die for the country and for the families of those who wait for their return; when sometimes the waiting is in vain.

Whether the war is a just or unjust war or whether it's useless debacle, young men and women die whilst fulfilling what is, in their mind, their duty. The validity of the war detracts nothing from their heroism.
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As True As Life Itself
zeuthuk26 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The film opens up with a shot of Cusack going through a routine act with his subordinates as they stand in a circle with hands in the middle, before setting off their motivational cheer for the day ahead. After they finish Cusack walks away without a breath of emotion, he is merely acting out orders without belief or question. How many of us watching this will connect in someway to something who knows, but for me I did. The mundane cloud that has set onto the screen shows a man with dampened spirit and little reason to smile, is he the epitome of middle America who knows? Sadly things don't get much better when two uniformed soldiers turn up at his door, to inform him of his wife's death in Iraq. This scene is particularly cold and had me in sympathetic mode, as I watched them try and console Cusack, in the same robotic manner that Cusack had shown his colleagues earlier on. A signed form later and the soldiers where gone, it is from here that things really begin.

To deal with the loss of partner is heart breaking but to have to inform his two daughters seems presently unthinkable. Cusack decides he needs time to console and takes the girls off on a road trip to Florida. As they drive through suburb after suburb you cant help but notice their grid like environment, consisting of brand name stores & lifeless roadside diners churning out the same conventional foods.

Grace is Gone unfolds in such a refreshingly organic way and is nicely produced to capture a world so routine, so grey and so convincing. Within this encapsulation, we have a mixture of tender / thoughtful moments sparked by unselfish actions, and of course the moment Cusack communicates the awful truth to his daughters. The key roles are obviously granted to Cusack and the girls, with only a small supporting cast, everything is well delivered and full of purpose. However, the joy of this film is not in the theme itself, but in the simplicity of it's presentation and the sense of realism, which feels as true as life itself.

Grace is Gone is by no means a classic, however it did make me think, and it did leave me touched unlike any other film from the Iraq genre. It is for these reason's that I recommend this film.
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when a man is notified that his soldier wife fighting in iraq is dead, he has to tell their two little girls.
flicz9 November 2007
this is a very sad movie. it's about the American public's relationship with the war in iraq, as told through a middle American family.

great incidental music makes this a tearfest. symbolism make the message clear. great acting makes you care. you heard it here first (flicz-11/07/07): john cusack will win "best actor" for this hands down.

i hadn't seen john cusack in a movie before, but he does a great job in a role that is extremely difficult. i don't think most actors could even attempt to play it.

the movie is not heavy handed or overtly judgemental.

not a good date movie. adult oriented. very sad.
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A long wait for the inevitable
Chris Knipp18 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
It's hard to dramatize a man who can't talk. In Grace Is Gone Stanley Philips (John Cusack) is such a man. Stanley learns that his wife has died in Iraq and cannot bring himself to tell his two little girls, 12-year-old Heidi (Shélan O'Keefe) and 8-year-old Dawn (Gracie Bednarczyk). This is a sensitive, well-acted tale (with terrific work by Cusack and the girls), but it's rather excruciating to watch. The movie is a long slow wait for the moment when the father finally finds the courage to tell his daughters about the tragic event.

Cusack is remarkable especially in the early scenes where we see him as a manager of a big-box home supplies store, plodding, bespectacled, ordinary: even his walk bespeaks disappointment and lowered expectations. He had lousy eyesight but cheated to get into the Army because he wanted so badly to serve. Later his deception was discovered and he was expelled, but in basic training he met his wife Grace, who has been sent to Iraq, leaving Stanley behind with the girls. He's grumpy with them, bossy in a way that might work better for a couple of boys, but mostly reflecting a depression and guilt he can't admit to. He pretends everything is okay, but in the opening he is awkwardly attending a military wives' support for women in his place, left behind while their spouses are in harm's way in the Middle East.

He can't speak, even then. When the two soldiers come to the door with the bad news, he at first won't let them in. And he refuses their help and just sits.

It goes on like that. Stanley takes the girls out of school, avoiding his job, driving to Enchanted Gardens in Florida. It's a long detour around the elephant in the room. For the audience it's an increasingly painful and tedious wait, suspense over a moment that will only be the beginning of the real story of coping with grief (such as was depicted, for instance, in Nanni Moretti's film The Son's Room).

On the way south Stanley detours to visit their grandmother's house, and instead finds his younger brother, John (Alexander Nivola), a bearded, smoking, unemployed high school dropout working on his GRE and thinking of law or medical school. John is an angry and honest 32-year-old who provokes a political conflict. He calls Bush "your monkey President" and shows himself to be violently opposed to the Iraq war. Stanley insists it is noble to serve. He will not hear of anything else and stifles the girls when John asks their opinion. Is the movie saying one reason for Stanley's implosion is that what's happened calls all his patriotism into question, and that his non-communication with the girls comes from his rigid politics? Heidi also is a doubter, or a worrier. It emerges that she has not been sleeping at night. When she calls school to tell them they're away, she meets understanding and pity. The subtlety of first director Strause's screenplay is the delicacy with which he hints at the suspicions of the older girl, and perhaps of the younger girl as well. Before the moment of truth arrives, it's more and more clear that nobody thinks anything is okay.

Grace Is Gone is a sensitive movie but it goes weak in key places. Strause cuts the sound in the revelatory scene just when Stanley gets to the hardest part of telling the girls the truth. The film in effect cops out just the way the father has been doing all along. In the end the film turns into a Hallmark card. We and the accomplished cast deserved better.
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Intense Film with Exceptional Acting
pegasus310 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This is a very intense film which unfolds in a paradoxically low-key fashion throughout. And behind the arras subtly lurks a searing indictment of the numbing and emotional wasteland of middle class suburbia with malls, discount stores, and plastic hotels/motels, all of which form a pervasive and repetitive landscape in which the characters attempt to deal with matters of far greater depth. Cusack does a marvelous job as a semi-robotic employee at a "Home Store" (Read WalMart) who leads his fellow employees in vacant cheers each morning before they walk through the swinging doors from the store room to the showroom. The young girl who plays Heidi, his daughter, Shelan O'Keefe, is equally outstanding and in many respects is the real star of the film as she slowly begins to realize something is radically wrong with her father's stoic behavior (he delays telling his daughters of their mother's death in Iraq as they motor to "Enchanted World" in Florida) and attempts not too successfully to somehow bring him out of his shell and find out what really is going on. A small role by Alessandro Nivola as Cusack's anti-war brother is another fine moment in the film.
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Tell me what to do ?.. What would "you" do ?
michaelt2817020857 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Don't read if you don't want to know just a few details about this movie.

My review is going to be well thought out, but it wont do justice to this movie, my review is an attempt to get to this movies heart, which is a terrible loss to a husband and father, who has just been told tragic news.

Shelan O'Keefe, John Cusack, and Gracie Bednarczyk, deserve equal Oscars for their power house performances in this excellent but very sad movie.

This film's premise is simple. John Cusack's wife is killed on duty in the Middle East, but he cannot tell his daughters.

So on hearing this news from two high ranking solders on his front door, he takes his two little girls of on a road trip to have fun, he tells them.

And this they do, including a trip to a fair ground, and a couple of department stores.

There are several very poignant moments in this film,which tell us about the loving relationship he has with his two little children.

There is a scene where he rings from an outside line, his own home answer phone, to hear his wife calling home, and then he asks his wife what he should do about telling his children the sad news ? At the end of the film, he drives to a secluded beach and delivers the tragic news as best he can, it is then that his two little girls react in uncontrollable tears, as you will too.

A first rate gentle movie. 10 stars easily. More if I could.
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Grace is Gone
rajdoctor11 September 2008
The local English newspaper in Amsterdam, gave a short brief and good review of this movie. On IMDb, it was a mixed bag of reviews – some of them really critical about the movie. My initial euphoria to go and see the movie faded fast, but still I went to see the movie – because I had promised to accompany my colleague – Claudia.

The movie is about Stanley Phillips (John Cusack) and his two daughters Heidi (Shelan Okeefe) and Dawn (Gracie Bednarczyk). Philips wife Grace is in military and serving in Iraq. One day the news comes in of her death. Philip is shocked, but he does not have courage to tell the news to his daughter. In turn, he decides to take them to take his daughters on a road trip to a Children Theme Park. Along the road he agrees to be cheerful and happy and give his daughters whatever they wish for. At the very end, when he tells them – it gets very emotional.

It is typical small budget, cute and simple story. John Cusack who is also the producer of the movie – acts his role of Stanley with perfection to the core. Each and every twitch of his eye and expression are measurable with the pain and agony that is there in his heart. He enacts this role brilliantly. Hats off to him. The two daughters – though not much historics to display – are good as supporting cast.

There are many emotional and sad moments in the film, and I would advice to carry your tissues and handkerchiefs along with you – if you are those senti types like me.

This is the first movie of Director James C. Strouse, and he has done an above average job in direction. I would not say brilliant. If it was not with the great acting of John Cusack, this movie would have fallen flat as any other ordinary movie.

Surprisingly Clint Eastwood has given musical score for this movie. One more feather on his cap. Wow – it was not strikingly noticeable, but was good.

I understand the few critical comments on some reviewers after seeing the film – like US military not allowing men with eye problems, and the cinematography. Both critical comments though correct – they are too minor to take away the goodness and touchiness of the film. Yes the camera work was a big let down for me too. The cinematography was out of place and majorly looked like I am seeing a 1970s movie – the type of film (or negative used).

But overall, a very pleasant and heart warming experience to see this movie.

(Stars 6.5 out of 10)
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A Road Movie About Coping
Chrysanthepop29 January 2013
James C. Strouse both writes and directs this compelling yet subtly told story of coping with grief. When Cusack's widower character receives the devastating news, he's distraught but how's he going to tell the kids? Instead, he takes them to Disneyland while he himself struggles to cope. 'Grace Is Gone' moves at a modest pace and Eastwood's terrific minimal soundtrack accompanies us in Stanley and his daughter's difficult but necessary journey. Political themes are occasionally brought up and Strouse attempts to present a balanced view but he also makes clear that this isn't a political film.

John Cusack delivers one of his finest restrained performances. Shélan O'Keefe and Gracie Bednarczyk are superb as the two daughters who are respectively confused and unaware and growing up. Alessandro Nivola does a fine job in a brief role as Stanley's brother (who shares the opposite viewpoint on politics).

I liked that here there wasn't a lot of focus on the landscape (not that would have minded that) because Strouse stays focused on the three key characters. Like most road movies, this one too is mainly about searching and discovering but what they find in the end is grace.
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You Don't Get It - This Movie is Completely Anti-War
mbkfox15 June 2016
Many reviewers gushed about how this movie is a wonderful drama about coping after a loss. Sure it is, but that's not the point of the movie.

It was clear when watching this film that it was one thing only: preachy propaganda. Now, I'm not judging the message of the preachy propaganda, just pointing out what this film is: One strong, loud message, which is so blaring that it scared people away from the box office. It wasn't an emotional fiction, it was 100% political commentary, and moviegoers can smell that a mile away and they usually don't like that. They want entertainment, not a sermon. Not only that, I further submit that John Cusak is an extremely intelligent person and knows exactly what he was doing by agreeing to take on this project. He knew the movie wouldn't do financially well but the message probably spoke to his beliefs.

It's not an anti-war message in the literal sense. The point isn't "War is Bad." It's more of an anti-Bush's stupid notion to go into Iraq itself. It's mostly critiquing Bush's main reason of going into Iraq, namely "Ahm a war prezidunt." Most Americans realize now that Bush wanted to go into Iraq, Iran, Syria, and North Korea for a campaign against evil without 1) understanding the true consequences of attempting it and 2) without the determination to stay hard when things get messy, which things did, which is why he never made it past Iraq. This movie's message is: "Hey, future presidential leaders! Please realize that when you make some tossed-out decision about "gowin' tawore" that you're sending real actual men and women who have lives, who have families, and there will be huge repercussions for each loss, every victim is a major tragedy, not just 'Oh, cool, we only lost 4 this week.'" I think the writer of this movie felt that this message was a necessary one to reach the hearts of every American because he probably believed that the Iraq war was a half-thought out plan that Bush decided on just because he felt like it. To make my theory more obvious, they even had a scene where Cheney or Rumsfeld or whomever was saying the rhetoric of 'if we don't continue our aggression it will be seen as a sign of weakness.' Liberals HATE that line of reasoning, which is why it's in here, to have viewers scream "That's why soldiers are dying?!"

So, where do I stand? I definitely agree with the message of the film but at the same time, I had no idea I was signing up to join a rally for 90 minutes in watching a movie. The obviousness of the film's message was a bit eye rolling, that's all. And it therefore seems like a project or an after-school special for adults that only reached a handful of US audiences. I guess it's good to have it out there for the record. Perhaps it can even be shown in schools. Great, stellar acting by all, for what it's worth.
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Military Family film
DCJerzeygrl5 December 2007
Lloyd Dobler is dead, long live the actor John Cusack.

This honest slice of military family life elevates JC out of those mindless, cutesy romantic/comedy roles, thank god. He's almost unrecognizable as the middle-age man trapped inside anyone's worst nightmare. A combat death in the family robs his daughters of their childhood innocence and he's not emotionally equipped to process it. Alessandro Nivola, Shelan O'Keefe and Gracie Bednarczyk are a fantastic supporting cast. First time director James C. Strouse wrote the screenplay with Cusack in mind. Clint Eastwood was convinced by John Cusack, who also produced, to score the film. Thanks John, many illustrious awards shall be placed at your feet.

This is the official movie URL
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Modest antiwar movie carries a real impact
brian_r_wright23 October 2008
Stanley is basically Middle American Man—living in Minnesota, working at a Home Depot surrogate at a lower-management level, high school graduate—who, as many such individuals, believes in his country and its leaders, at least to the extent of believing these leaders when they claim that invading the Middle East is an act of defending America. He signs up for the Marines, meets his wife there, but whereas she is shipped off to join the occupation forces, he is mustered out of the service for bad eyes. He becomes the Mr. Mom, staying home and taking care of the girls; in fact, he's a member of a support group of military spouses the rest of whom are women (which is the basis for one of the more gently humorous scenes in the movie.


For my complete review of this movie and for other movie and book reviews, please visit my site

Brian Wright Copyright 2008
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The kind of film we need but don't receive
StevePulaski21 May 2014
There have been an unsurprising influx in war films since America initiated the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively, but there has also been an overabundance of films that show dad on the frontlines of battle rather than mom on the frontlines. Convention and long-standing images and repeating commercials have directed our minds to think of hundreds of young men when the word "soldiers" comes up in conversation, but women are rapidly making up more and more of our military as days go by. At this point, we've seen many films that show what happens when dad is absent and fighting for his country, but what about what happens when a father is left to take care of his two young daughters while his wife is overseas in Iraq, to find out she has been killed when he gets the tragic and heartwrenching knock at his door? Grace is Gone attempts to depict such an incident.

The film stars John Cusack in a strong performance as Stanley Phillips, who works at a hardware store called Home Care and mans the fort at home with his daughters - twelve-year-old Heidi (Shélan O'Keefe) and eight-year-old Dawn (Gracie Bednarczyk). While Stanley - a Veteran himself - admires his wife's audacity and commitment to the military, he wishes she was at home helping the girls through some of the most significant moments in their life (especially Heidi, who often appears to be twelve-going-on-eighteen). When the girls are at school, Stanley is informed that his wife was killed in battle. Rather than sob or break down in theatrics, he calmly sits down and stews in absolute silence, not calling into work, not calling the school his girls attend to inform them, or anything. He stews for several hours, quietly flinching when an unanswered phone call clicks over to the receiver and he hears his wife's canned message.

When the girls are home, Stanley has some surprising news for them, although it's not the news we expect him to reveal. He takes the two girls on a car trip to "anywhere they want." The girls are puzzled by their once strict, schedule-reliant father cutting loose, especially in the middle of a school/workweek. Dawn says she wants to go to "Enchanted Gardens," to which Stanley accepts without hesitation. The three are now bound for Enchanted Gardens, despite foggy air between them that only Stanley can see. Long takes on Stanley's face show a deeply worried soul who will sooner-or-later have to break the news to his daughters that their mother has died, but right now, he realizes that if he himself can not comprehend what has just happen, how will he bring his daughters to do the same? Along the way, Stanley makes a pit stop at his mother's house, where his brother John (Alessandro Nivola) resides, unemployed and cynical. Stanley and John never quite got a long, with John often opposing many things and bearing a very pessimistic attitude towards life. A touching scene, however, comes when John takes Stanley's daughters out for lunch and discusses their father's service and tries to put in easily-understandable terms why the two don't necessarily get along so well. Before the girls know it, it's time to hit the road and they don't even get to see their grandmother come home from work. Stanley has had enough of a nap and it's time to get back on the road.

Grace is Gone isn't the emotionally manipulative family drama about death and loss that we can easily assume it is. It's a deep and intimate film about grief and denial that we all know has to veer into acceptance sooner or later. Cusack embodies this idea perfectly in the complex role of Stanley Phillips, only assisted by the work of O'Keefe and Bednarczyk, whose character must remain loyal to their clearly troubled and often incoherent father as he grapples with something he fears they simply won't be able to understand.

An attribute that makes Grace is Gone lack the sentimentality it could've easily exploited is Clint Eastwood's humble, low-key score, which comes in at the right moments and lingers in a way that isn't intrusive or an overstayed welcome. Throw in a pleasantly manageable eighty-five minute runtime, softly-lit cinematography by Jean-Louis Bompoint, and writing and directing by James C. Strouse that doesn't cater to a mainstream formula, and you have a film that should have a lot more recognition than it does in the face of emotionally manipulative dramas and subpar films concerning war.

Starring: John Cusack, Shélan O'Keefe, Gracie Bednarczyk, and Alessandro Nivola. Directed by: James C. Strouse.
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