Is there ever really a way to get over heartache, if not through it? Dan Levy’s Good Grief is an attempt to analyze the myriad of emotions one experiences upon losing their significant other. Even though the plot is not out of the ordinary, Dan Levy’s writing keeps the interest going. It is an overall genuine attempt at mapping emotions, but there is something missing. It perhaps could have been a good short story to read, but as a visual experience, it lacked the immersive quality.
In Good Grief, we are introduced to Marc and Oliver, the perfect couple who host extravagant Christmas parties. Oliver was a celebrated writer, and Marc was a painter who had taken up illustrating children’s books and covers. Oliver’s larger-than-life personality made him a crowd favorite, and Marc simply admired his man. He was the definition of a perfect partner, and for the last fifteen years, Marc had no reason to complain. Before leaving for Paris, Oliver entertained their guests at the party and led the customary sing-along practice. He handed Marc a red envelope and promised to reunite soon. Marc did not know that would be the last time he saw Oliver, and the lengthy discussion that they were meant to have after the holidays never happened.
What did the letter say?
Marc lost Oliver in an accident, and it took him months to adjust to the idea that his husband was not by his side anymore. His best friends, Sophie and Thomas, helped him heal. They stayed by his side all along and encouraged him to step out of his house and carry on with life. The constant aching pain did not go away, even though the months did, and it eventually had been a year since the incident. Marc could not make himself open the Christmas card Oliver had gifted him, but he believed it was time now. Maybe Marc expected a love letter of sorts that would break his heart into pieces after reading it, but instead, it was a confession. Oliver admitted that he was seeing someone else outside their marriage, and he wanted to explore their relationship. Oliver wanted to familiarize Marc with the idea before discussing the matter in person. Marc did not expect such a turn of events. All of a sudden, he did not know if it was grief he was experiencing or rage. He had so many questions in his mind, yet the only person who could have answered them was now gone. Getting over Oliver became a lot more complicated than it was. Marc had to find forgiveness in his heart and accept every bit of the person that Oliver was. Marc joined his friends at the experimental art party they were at, and his eyes met Theo. He was a Frenchman who immediately took an interest in Marc. There was a sense of genuineness to Theo that Marc appreciated, but flirting with a stranger was not something he was ready for. He needed to process the turmoil he experienced within, and even though they exchanged numbers, he did not contact Theo.
What secret was Oliver hiding in Paris?
Marc met his and Oliver’s financial advisor, Imelda, to discuss the steps to be taken after the publishing house demanded a substantial amount of reimbursement from the advance payment they had granted Oliver for the completion of his upcoming novel. While discussing ways to cut down expenses, Imelda mentioned a pied-a-terre in Paris that was taken leash from December the previous year. Marc was completely unaware of the property she mentioned, and he realized that it was the place he got for the other man he had spoken of in the letter. Marc had a meltdown. He was discovering heartbreaking truths after the death of his partner, and he had to deal with them while grieving over his loss. He had spent a year of his life mourning Oliver’s death, and he wondered if it was all a mistake. He could not help but rethink their relationship and the values they shared. He started to doubt Oliver’s love for him, and everything seemed immensely more difficult. Before ending the lease on the Paris apartment, Marc decided to visit it with Sophie and Thomas. He did not dare to do it all alone, and he believed that a trip to Paris would be a treat for his friends. Sophie, who had recently gone through a breakup, readily agreed to the plan, and Thomas did not mind tagging along. It was quite evident that Thomas had a soft spot for Marc. They dated for a year, fifteen years ago, and they have been friends ever since. Thomas had been in search of a partner, and maybe after Oliver’s death, he assumed that they could give themselves another chance again.
What lessons did the three friends learn in Paris?
Marc did not have the strength to confess the truth to his friends, and he chose to play along with their assumption that the apartment belonged to him and Oliver. Marc found more evidence of Oliver’s alternate life upon entering his bedroom. He had left a Christmas gift for his boyfriend, Luca, and it broke Marc all the more. He later went to the shop Oliver had brought the gift from, and he was surprised to find that Oliver frequented the store whenever he was in Paris. He also learned that a young boy accompanied Oliver to the store at times. Marc knew that one day he would have to face reality, but it was all too sudden.
Sophie chose not to discuss her breakup with her friends; instead, she was in search of a good time. She swiped right with a guy on a dating app, and he agreed to bring his friends along. Marc missed Oliver immensely at dinner. He was drunk, and that did not help his case. He impulsively contacted Theo, and to his surprise, the Frenchman was waiting for him outside the karaoke room.
Thomas was not too happy about Marc’s sudden decision to leave. Marc and Theo instantly connected. After coming to Paris, Marc felt exceptionally lonely, and he appreciated Theo’s company. His straightforwardness impressed Marc, and their discussion brought him a sense of clarity. Marc admitted that after his mother’s death, he focused entirely on his marriage to cope with the loss. He did not allow himself the time to process her absence, and he stopped doing anything that reminded him of her. He now realized that all he ever wanted was to remember her, and he should have gone through the grief instead of finding a way out of it. He believed he was taking the same route for Oliver as well. During his confession in Good Grief, we learn that Marc and Oliver were in an open marriage, but Marc was not entirely open to the idea. Instead of admitting his true feelings, he chose to agree with Oliver because he was afraid of losing him. Marc realized that he found grief so difficult to deal with that he was instead inclined towards anger to cope with it. Theo advised him to continue painting to express his emotions through art. The two visited the Claude Monet Museum that night, and they shared a kiss at what Theo called “the house of loss.”.
When Marc woke up in the morning, he came across a very angry Thomas and an upset Sophie. After a night of alcohol and drugs, Sophie was found sleeping at the bus station, and the police arrested her. Thomas had to deal with the entire situation, and he was extremely frustrated. He blamed Marc for not being there to help him out and casually leaving him alone. Later, during the Ferris wheel ride, Thomas admitted his feelings for Marc. He was aware that Marc did not feel the same way about him, and he could not help but think about how he always ended up being the one no one fell in love with. He was in search of a lifelong companion, but none of the people he met considered him to be the one for them. All of their lives were quite a mess, and even though they would never be perfect, Thomas believed they must at least try to be better. Sophie confessed that it was Terrance who broke up with her. He wanted to marry her, but she could never give him that assurance. She was always searching for the next best thing without realizing the importance of having someone willing to live through the worst days together. In one way or another, all three friends took back a life lesson from their Paris trip.
How did Marc cope with the loss?
After returning to London, Marc decided to sell Oliver’s house and spend time alone painting. Instead of running away from grief, he wanted to take the time to appreciate Oliver through his art. After realization struck Sophie, she and Terrance decided to give their relationship another chance.
During Good Grief‘s ending, Marc finally forgave Oliver for the secret he kept, and he grieved the loss of his partner through time and art. Thomas arrived with his boyfriend at Marc’s art exhibition. He finally seems to have found someone willing to hold his hands, even through the worst. By taking some time off, Thomas and Marc’s relationship had improved, and they were once again back to being the best of friends. Sophie and Terrance got back together, and she had a ring on her finger. After the trip to Paris, she realized how important it was to focus on the relationship she had instead of searching for the next best option. Apart from paintings of Oliver, Marc’s friends were his subjects as well. In his journey of loss, he felt closer to his emotions than he had before.
In modern times, we tend to keep ourselves busy instead of processing our emotions. Marc’s journey in Good Grief taught him to let out his feelings and go through with them rather than running away. Because he realized there was no escape. Sophie and Thomas’ problems are also quite relevant. One was desperately searching for permanence at a time when flings are valued more, and Sophie struggled to be satisfied even though she knew she was happy in the relationship. The world taught her to never settle down and to always search for a better option, and in the process, she was about to jeopardize the beautiful relationship she had.