Grace Is Gone
Stunned when his wife is killed in combat, Stanley Phillips is unable to tell his two pre-teen daughters the news. Instead, he takes them on a road trip. score

moviereview rates films from
1 (unwatchable) to 5 (unmissable)
John Cusack, Shelan O'Keefe, Gracie Bednarczyk, Alessandro Nivola, Zach Gray

James Strouse


James Strouse


Rating / Running Time
M / 92 minutes

Australian Release
January 2008

Official Site

(c) moviereview 2006-2007
ABN 72 775 390 361
From a politically conservative mindset, Stanley Phillips is trying to cope with personal tragedy. Not that politics play a significant part of James Strouse’s gentle debut feature; it offers perspective rather than forming any significant independent agenda. Phillips is ex-army and now manages a non-descript hardware store. His soldier wife is on a tour of the Middle East. Then Stanley gets the call.

John Cusack is one of the least threatening actors in Hollywood and well cast as the very ordinary, very reliable Phillips, a man suddenly confronted with unimaginable news. In oversized glasses and an irregular gait, Cusack calls up every dad you’ve ever met. With Strouse, he plays this meditation on grief devoid of the mawkish sentimentality you might expect, even if Clint Eastwood’s score often intrudes on the film’s simplicity.

Phillips has lapsed into shock and cannot bring himself to tell his pre-teen daughters Heidi and Dawn the tragic news. Instead, he takes them on an impromptu road trip to a Florida theme park in the hope of preserving their innocence. Newcomers Shelan O’Keefe and Gracie Bednarcyzk are a revelation of instinct and naturalism that should put their contemporaries to shame. They certainly give Cusack a run for his agent’s fee.

Enroute, they stop in on Stanley’s late-blooming brother (Alessandro Nivola) to underline their differences, and meet a nervous youngster for Heidi to assert her emerging individuality. “You have to trust that you’re doing the right thing,” says her father. “What if you can’t?” “Then we’re all lost,” he replies. Grace Is Gone embraces both sides of the political divide to tell a small story about life’s biggest challenge. It’s a rich film that defies its compact scope and does so with quiet, elegant and distressing determination.