Grace Is Gone (2008)

Director:  James C. Strouse
Cast:  John Cusack, Emily Churchill, Rebecca Spence
Plot:  Upon hearing his wife was killed in the Iraq war, a father takes his two daughters on a road trip.

Genre:  Drama
Awards:  Won Screenwriting Award and Audience Award (Sundance).  Nom. for 2 Golden Globes - Best Original Score, Best Original Song.
Runtime:  85min
Rating:  PG for thematic material, brief strong language and teen smoking.

It's nearing the end of March and I'm delighted to point out that it has been a decent start to the movie year with many films scoring an 8/10.  Grace Is Gone is proud to be the first film of 2008 to reach the 'magical stamp of recommendation' of 8.5/10.  

The best picture so far as of this time, Grace Is Gone explores the consequences of the American invasion of Iraq, but at the familiar level.  When Stanley Phillips (John Cusack) receives the inevitable news of his soldier wife's death, he finds it immensely difficult to communicate with his young pre-teen daughters, especially in relating the truth to them.

Looking past its simple narrative form, and most viewers will find that Grace Is Gone is a film of substantial power.  Dawn is a typical kid.  A bubbly girl with a zest for excitement in life.  Her slightly older sister, Heidi, is more introverted, but is mature enough to know how to read people's emotions. 

So when their father takes them out for a road trip to Enchanted Gardens (a themed-park) and missing a few days of school and homework in the process, Heidi eventually realizes that this is no ordinary trip, while innocent Dawn continues to pester her dad for more fun.

Cusack (I've never rated him highly as an actor) gives the best performance of his career in Grace Is Gone, shutting critics up with a display that is tremendously sincere and unfeigned. He strikes a perfect balance in playing a grieving husband and a determined father seeking for that opportune moment to educate his kids about the harsh unpredictability of life. 

The final ten minutes might play out to be rather predictable in another movie.  However, Grace Is Gone has been so simple and direct throughout the ninety minutes that its predictability just strikes a tearful chord in viewers.  It's also a reminder that movies can be short and highly effective at the same time. 

GRADE: A- (8.5/10 or 4 stars)

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