Dealing with grief on the screen


Recently I have been going blindly into watching something on the gogglebox without reading the blurb or reviews. As it happens, one almost excellent feature film and a potentially great small-screen release I have come across both have grief woven into their narratives.

Fathers & Daughters (Väter und Töchter – Ein ganzes Leben, 2015) is a very different film from another recent one also starring Russell Crowe, The Nice Guys (reviewed by this webzine).

I thought The Nice Guys did the retro, buddy detective gig very well. While it also features the father-daughter grief theme (with Ryan Gosling as the young bereaved father), Fathers & Daughters delves deeper into the aftermath of losing a loved one and how it affects the parent-child dynamic. Here, it is Crowe who plays the Dad.

Critically acclaimed for his stories, Jake Davis (Crowe) is hit hard by a fatal car accident that leaves him widowed and with what his brother labels as psychotic episodes.

His young daughter “Potato Chip” (Katie) seems to be the spool that keeps the writer’s ribbon from unraveling. She is played in flashback by the adorable Kylie Rogers – one certainly to watch out for.

After the release of a poorly received novel and an increasing frequency of fits brought on by the physical and psychological consequences of the accident, Jake decides to put himself into psychotherapy. Regrettably for this viewer’s intrigue, the film omits this chapter of his story. Post-therapy, the interest and upside lie in a tighter-knit bonding experience with his daughter and a drive to tell their story. On the flip side is his brother and the family’s interference in his ability to care for Katie.

“Potato Chip,” played by Amanda Seyfried as an adult, seems to have delayed effects from this grief episode in her present inability to form close relationships. This is illustrated by her many liaisons and main love interest, played by the in-demand Aaron Paul (Jesse from Breaking Bad). What she has going for her is an ability, through her career as a psychotherapist, to empathise and help a traumatised kid.

The film has a potentially fully-formed story that is at times sensitively dealt with, but in the end butchered by overuse of the flashback. I wanted to see more of the exploration of the effects of the accident. More than just a glimpse at the sticky relationship of the brothers, more of the growing-up and growing-distant process of “Potato Chip,” and certainly more than the whirlwind depiction of the romance between Katie and Cameron (Paul).

The AMC series Feed the Beast (2016) may just about fill up the hole the film leaves in sating my celluloid and narrative appetite.

Its premise is the same: How do we deal with grief and losing a loved one? I am five episodes into the series, which explores a father-son dynamic. This time, we have a kid who becomes introverted and breaks off spoken communication after his mother dies, and a father who initially turns to the solace of the bottle (a bit like Gosling in The Nice Guys).

Yet again another adorable kid (TJ) in this show, played by Elijah Jacob. In a potentially more in-depth role than Ross from Friends, David Schwimmer plays his father Tommy. The interference here is caused by Tommy’s best friend, his father, and his love interest. Whether this is for the good or bad I cannot judge. However, with small-time mafia, gentrification of the Bronx, drugs, secret love, bullying, racism, good food and wine, this show has many things to quench the viewer’s thirst for more.

Coming from a theatre and performance background, and being a celluloid aficionado, it only seemed right that Stewart aka theLingoGuy pursued this through his other passion of writing. He is also very excited by the theatre and documentary scene developing locally, particularly English Theatre Leipzig, DOK and GlobalLE. However, he keeps an eye on the ground breaking stuff in the Fringe, Slam poetry, Battle Rap and the many fusion genre TV series and films. As you can see, you can expect a diverse palette of stage and screen choices, as well as other passions that he will paint from with his words.

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