There’s no one way to navigate grief, and Dan Levy’s latest film proves it.
In Netflix’s Good Grief, Levy plays Marc, a children’s book illustrator and former painter completely happy living within the larger-than-life shadow of his husband, Oliver (Luke Evans), in London. But that changes when Oliver unexpectedly dies, leaving Marc distraught and broken.
Thankfully, Marc’s friends Sophie (Ruth Negga) and Thomas (Himesh Patel) stand by his side. So when he invites both of them on a trip to Paris, France, the trio’s vacation turns into a soul-searching adventure that uncovers a collection of hard truths that all need to face.
Levy is known for his comedic chops on Schitt’s Creek, a critically acclaimed comedy he starred and co-created alongside his father, Eugene Levy. The series is a far cry from Levy’s feature-film debut as a writer and director.
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It’s all a matter of timing.
“In the early days when that idea was coming to fruition, it was originally conceived potentially as a romantic comedy, and then whatever press got out set what is now a very strange description of the movie,” Levy said for Entertainment Weekly. “I see the movie as a drama or a dramedy.”
Unfortunately, the inspiration for the film came from his own bout with grief.
“I lost my grandmother toward the tail end of the pandemic, and I was in a very strange headspace in terms of feeling the weight and the profound sense of tragedy of what the COVID pandemic had done for all of us, while at the same time trying to honor the passing of someone who meant so much to me,” Levy said. “It was hard for me to feel the specificity of loss when all I was feeling was grief for so long. It was that conversation that really expedited the concept of the movie.”
Producing the film with his Not a Real Production Company, alongside Sister Pictures, marks Levy juggling multiple hats, being able to be a part of a film that’s completely his from start to finish. And while the Emmy Award winner had every intention to turn his film into a rom com, he ultimately decided on a different direction and focus for Good Grief.
“I feel like the older we get, the more profound our relationships are with our friends and the more complicated they get,” Levy added. “Sometimes the people that are closest to us, we excuse the most in terms of having those hard conversations about life and bad habits and patterns of behavior that could be slightly course corrected. It’s an uncomfortable conversation to have, and yet that intimacy exists within these friendships.”
Levy, Ruth, and Patel spent two weeks rehearsing in London before they filmed their chemistry to the set. Still, Levy hadn’t finished processing his own grief when filming began.
“When I went into it, I was still processing a lot,” Levy added. “Not that we ever fully process grief, but that question of, am I grieving properly? Have I done enough? I do feel like, in making this movie, I have honored the grief that I felt at the time, that this is all I could do to celebrate the feelings that I had when my grandmother and my dog passed away.
But like many artists, Levy found release and healing within his art.
“Sometimes if you have the ability to write, it’s the greatest outlet for pain and catharsis.”
Good Grief premieres on Netflix on January 5. Bring your tissues.
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