Dan Levy Is the Ultimate Millennial in 'Good Grief'

Directed by Daniel Levy

Starring Daniel Levy, Ruth Negga, Himesh Patel, Luke Evans

Photo courtesy of Netflix

BY Rachel HoPublished Jan 4, 2024

I'm always on the hunt for a top-shelf warm-blanket film. A movie that isn't necessarily great, but provides an indescribable comfort that hits just the right spot. Daniel Levy occupies that space, both as a performer and as the director of his debut feature, Good Grief — although it's not entirely a good thing.

For those of us around the same age as Levy, he feels like someone we grew up with, especially for Canadians. Even if the Laguna Beach and The Hills aftershows he hosted weren't a particular priority back in the early aughts, Levy's striking resemblance to his father, comedy legend Eugene Levy, oddly gives the impression of someone we intrinsically know. So, when he officially moved into the TV/film world as a creator with Schitt's Creek, it felt natural, as if he'd been there all along. 

Good Grief, tonally and aesthetically, continues this trend of being a natural progression in Levy's artistry — that is to say, it all feels really safe and expected of a nearing-40-years-old millennial. It's got the vibe of a film our generation relished in our youth, and therapist-speak dialogue saying all the things we wish we had said when we lay awake at night reliving moments in our mind. 

Credit to Levy, though, he doesn't attempt to bite off more than he can chew. The premise is relatively simple: Marc (Levy), a 38-year-old man living in London, loses his husband Oliver (Luke Evans) unexpectedly and grieves over the course of a year when Marc discovers that, just before his husband died, Oliver intended to leave their marriage after meeting someone else. Levy, who also wrote the film, chooses to use London and Paris as his two film locales, cities that require little finesse to look appealing and interesting on screen.

Similar to Schitt's Creek, Levy attempts to imbue the film with quiet understanding. As an audience, we can relate to the fact that, in life, things rarely wrap up neatly or end in an explosion of drama; sometimes, the conclusion to a problem is that it merely exists and time moves on. Good Grief illustrates this well, so long as the majority of conversations between the characters is ignored. Far too often, the cast are made to take forced philosophical emotional dumps, taking away from the natural movement of events playing out in the film. 

By far the best at doing this without leaving a cloying aftertaste is Ruth Negga — undoubtedly the highlight of the film, and an absolute revelation in this kind of role. Negga's turn as Sophie, Marc's messy friend, keeps the film on track, providing a lot of the levity as well as the emotional heart of the film.

Good Grief has the makings of a decent warm-blanket movie — it's entertaining, heartfelt and funny at just the right moments — and should enjoy a good amount of success as a straight-to-streaming offering. But, as a filmmaker, Levy's restraint proves to be a double-edged sword. By being unsurprising, Levy can't falter much (save for the script); it points towards a director unwilling to take risks, similar to a singer transitioning to film and deciding to play a pop star in their first movie.

Perhaps, though, this is the kind of filmmaker niche Levy can excel in, as the friend we all know who doesn't take us outside our comfort zones — the one who warms our feet, not the one who knocks our socks off.

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