Grace is Gone (2007)

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Released 20-Aug-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer-(2.13)
Trailer-Reservation Road, Be Kind Rewind, Mr Woodcock
Featurette-Profile of Taps (3.26)
Featurette-Inspiration for Grace (6.39)
Featurette-Making Of-A Conversation on Grace (7.02)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 81:42
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By James C. Strouse
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring John Cusack
Emily Churchill
Rebecca Spence
Jennifer Tyler
Susan Messing
Shélan O'Keefe
Gracie Bednarczyk
Doug Dearth
Doug James
Case ?
RPI ? Music Clint Eastwood


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (320Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (320Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   Grace is Gone is the latest in a series of films exploring the Iraq war experience. However, it is not a war film as such, as we never see soldiers in the heat of battle. Instead, this is a look at the rarely told story of the effect of the war on the people back home. The families: mothers, partners and children.

By any measure Grace is Gone is a little film. It has a small budget, mostly unknown actors and a wafer thin plot. It was a success at Sundance (winning the Audience Award in 2007) but, like so many other Iraq films, has struggled to find a foothold at the box office. It is worth a viewing by anyone interested in intimate drama.

Grace is Gone turns convention on its head right at the beginning. The "Grace" of the title is the soldier doing her duty in the Middle East whilst her medically discharged ex-soldier husband Stanley Phillips (John Cusack) lives the life of a civilian. Not just any civilian but the decidedly humdrum floor manager at the local furniture discount store. He also has the care and charge of their two young daughters. Grace is on yet another tour of duty and Stanley is feeling nervous and blunted - he has started going to a support group for soldiers wives. His eldest daughter Heidi (Shelan O'Keefe) has been falling asleep in class, which he initially puts down to a lack of dedication. The other daughter Dawn (Gracie Bednarczyk) is too young to feel what the others are really feeling - the pain of absence.

When the inevitable happens and Grace is declared dead, Stanley is unable to deal with the first order of duty - telling the children. Instead he gathers them up and goes on a massive road trip to visit the Disney-like Enchanted Gardens. On the way through he stops in at his parents house, crossing philosophical swords with his pacifist brother. These scenes and one other in the car with the girls are the only ones which verge on the political. This film is pretty much apolitical. It doesn't matter why Grace is there- the family just want to see her home alive. This is interesting as Cusack, who also produced the film is a noted anti-Iraq War personality.

Grace is Gone is, as said, a small film which works only on the personal level. There is a distinct lack on action and the viewer is really just invited on the journey, waiting in growing expectation for the all important moment when Stanley unburdens himself of the big secret.

The film works mainly due to Cusack's finely tuned performance. He has put on weight for the role, creating a sad burdened man in Stanley. As he shuffles through the furniture store at the beginning it is hard to see the same actor who so often plays the livewire as the ordinary guy in extraordinary pain.

The girls are good too. If O'Keefe doesn't do great things I will be surprised for she has a knowing quality that resonates beyond her years. Her role is a tough one - she has to play a girl on the accelerated road to womanhood. First time director James C Strouse works hard at the material but doesn't have quite the skill to elevate it to an exceptional film.

Grace is Gone has performed better on DVD than it did at the cinema which is perhaps no surprise as the material is perfectly suited to the small screen. Those who like Cusack will find much to like in the film.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

   Grace is Gone was shot on 35mm film and presented cinematically at a 1.85:1 ratio. This aspect ratio has been maintained for the DVD release. It is 16x9 enhanced.

The print is clean and clear, without a trace of artefacts.

Given that the film is barely 80 minutes long and that there are limited extras on this DVD 9 it is no surprise that there are no compression issues. Aliasing is also not an issue and there is no edge enhancement to be seen.

The film was shot on a low budget and using a sombre colour palette. There is , however, much to like in the visual presentation. Grain is minimal and cinematographer Jean-Louis Bompoint (The Science of Sleep) keeps the action up close and personal. We can see every care line in Stanley's face.

There are subtitles in English for the hearing impaired.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

   Grace is Gone comes with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack running at 448 Kb/s and a 2.0 soundtrack running at 224 Kb/s. Further, there is a descriptive audio track.

Not surprisingly, there is little surround activity in this intimate drama and the subwoofer might as well have stayed on shore leave.

The dialogue is clear and easy to hear. There is a lot of bickering between the kids that occasionally gets lost but I doubt that the director wanted every taunt to register. Audio sync is fine.

The soundtrack was apparently changed after the film was first shown. Clint Eastwood, well known for his love of jazz, provides the new score with his son Kyle one of the arrangers. The score provides a listless, sad tone to the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Grace is Gone comes with a number of very brief extras.

Profile of TAPS 3.26

This organisation (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) is dedicated to assisting the families of killed servicemen and women. This short feature describes the history and good works of the organisation.

An Inspiration for Grace is Gone 6.39

This short feature tells the story of Warren Pelligren who lost his Navy Lieutenant wife when she returned from leave bearing a disease caught offshore. He faced the terrible task of telling his four children of her death. He also tells how John Cusack called him to try to understand how to make the character seem real.

A Conversation on Grace

Director James C. Strouse and star John Cusack talk about the source of inspiration for the story and the characterisations. Actress Shelan O'Keefe also chimes in with some comments. A bit brief but worth watching none the less.

Trailer 2.13

The theatrical trailer gives a good summary of the film.

Trailer

Trailers are included for Reservation Road, Be Kind Rewind, Mr Woodcock

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   This film is available in other Regions in practically the same configuration as our edition in Region 4. The only difference is in the choice of other trailers.

Summary

    Grace is Gone is a slight but engaging family drama.

The DVD transfer is as good as you have a right to expect from this low budget movie.

Fans of the film may, however, have wanted more extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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