Bill’s wife died suddenly and quickly, and left her husband and teenage son devastated. She was the love of Bill’s life and the emptiness without her is unbearable. Trying to outrun his pain, he packs up his son and moves cross country to beautiful California where his son Wes attends and Bill teaches at a private school.
There, Wes (Josh Wiggins) will meet Lacy (Odeya Rush), a student haunted by her own searing pain, and Bill (JK Simmons) will meet Carine (Julie Delpy), the beautiful andsmart French teacher who couldn’t possibly fill the hole left by his dead wife. These women are the jolt of electricity they’ll need to venture outside their mourning and start to admit that life goes on. Sadly, though, it’s not quite that easy. Grief is complicated, and depression lurks behind it, ready to steal away one’s remaining parent.
This sounds like a downer but actually that doesn’t tell the whole story. There’s laughter coupled with the sorrow, and the two co-exist quite comfortably for two reasons. First, it’s a good script, grounded in reality where nothing is black and white, where even depressed people can retain a sense of humour, where sadness and happiness often coincide, are two sides of the same debit card (who carries coins anymore?). Second, there are some very humane performances, particularly by JK Simmons. Writer-director Kurt Voelker manages to respect each of his character by giving them each an arc of their own. He manages to traverse some shaky ground by transcending the genres and making a film that is uniquely his.
There’s a stirring masculinity on display, showing grief and depression in their many forms, which are sometimes more difficult to identify in men. The emotions are no less visceral and Voelker keeps them accessible, making sure that honesty is at the forefront, and that no one is identified solely by their loss. Sean will love the Pacific Coast Highway views from a Mustang convertible, and the rest of us can enjoy a naked performance from a great actor unafraid to be vulnerable in his tightie whities.