“Because I could no longer ignore death, I pay more attention to life.”
Based on a true story, Grace and Grit, from director Sebastian Siegel, is story of love in the face of death. The specter of death is of such existential power that we would expect such a story to have a spiritual aspect. It does, but that part gets a bit buried in the emotional tumult of the two lovers.
The story is that of Treya Wilber (Mena Suvari) and her husband Ken (Stuart Townsend). Ken is a New Age philosopher/psychologist. He is described in the film as “the Einstein of consciousness”. When the two meet, the attraction is immediate. Their whirlwind romance last four months before they marry. This opening section of the film is filled with their private thoughts in low key voice over as the action and dialogue are on screen.
Ten days after their marriage, Treya is diagnosed with a stage two breast cancer. As Treya goes through various treatments—both conventional and alternative—Ken supports her, but both must deal with not just the illness, but the emotions that accompany the years-long ups and downs. The film mixes the ongoing story of the couple through Treya’s treatment with flashes of emotive memories. There are also occasional visualizations of the sense of helplessness they feel.
This is set in the 80s when New Age ideas were at their height. Ken was certainly influenced by Eastern thought, which leads this film to have a bit of an Eastern spirituality bent. But that fits with the mindfulness that the two characters practice as they live out the crisis.
The facing of such an illness is obviously a strain in any relationship. That is especially true here. Ken and Treya are devoted to each other, but really do not have the rootedness that could help sustain them. Still, the love they share is the key that this film focuses on.
The existential aspects seem to take something of a backseat to the relationship as the film plays out. It is far more love story than spiritual story or philosophical story. In the end, that makes this a bit overwrought, especially in the most emotional scenes.
Grace and Grit is in theaters and available on VOD.
Photos courtesy of Quiver Distribution.