The Watchlist: Shows and movies that deal with grief

Grief is like a seasonal river that changes its intensity in an instant. It can be a molehill one moment and a mountain the next, a fluffy kitten one day and an aggressive lion the next. Change is the name of the game.

We often equate grief with pain and tears, a soul-crushing experience to be endured. It can be all these things, and often is, but it is also the good memories that bring out laughter and bitter, happy tears. It can manifest in relief and peace when a loved one isn’t suffering anymore, or even in comedy caused by the high jinks of family members.

Today, on our weekly streaming list, we’ll go through a bunch of movies and series that tackle the dynamism of this universal and inevitable emotional rollercoaster.

 

The Leftovers

What happens after death, to both the dead and the living? That is the question tackled by this HBO series.

On October 14, 2011, two percent of the world’s population disappears. Just like that, in front of family or total strangers, while doing mundane everyday things, people, old and young, simply disappeared.

The show is centred on the Garvey family based in Mapleton, New York. The third anniversary of the disappearances is approaching. We follow the characters as they deal with survivor’s guilt, grief for the dead and the living, grief for a lost way of life, the rise of cults, and their questions about religion and the afterlife.

This show packs a lot, but the balance of the characters and their experiences makes it an easy watch. “The Leftovers” is a dense three-season ride that’s serious, funny, and quirky in equal measure.

Watch all three seasons on Showmax.

Fleabag

Well, well. Let’s start off by saying that this show is strictly for adult viewing. It took me three trials to get into this show; it seemed so brash and kind of tasteless. But that was before I realised that the crassness is a dramatic device.

Fleabag is a woman. She is undeserving of a name and deserving of all the shame in the world. She runs an unsuccessful cafe and is in the depths of serious debt. Her boyfriend leaves her, permanently this time, making way for wayward sexual exploits.

The show’s supporting characters include her sister, her source of money; her father, the other source of money; her dead mother, the initial source of her grief; her dead best friend, the major source of her grief; her godmother/stepmother, a major irritation; and her handsy brother-in-law, the other major irritation.

As a classic adult failure-to-launch character, Fleabag’s family manages her immaturity with genuine concern, endless eye rolling, and exasperation, much like one would deal with a spoiled pre-teen.

In just six short episodes, averaging 27 minutes each, we watch Fleabag hit bottom after bottom until she comes to terms with her grief. If you enjoy risqué British humour, this one is for you.

Stream it on Amazon Prime.

Aftersun

This is the story of a young dad, Calum, who is on holiday with his pre-teen daughter, Sophie. I watched this movie with zero context, and as it progressed, disquiet set in. Something felt askew.

The angled shots, the use of mirrors, and the shaky camera work imply a facade. In addition to the weirdness of the shots, the character of Calum feels clipped, as if his personality, his character, is somewhere beneath the surface.

The movie is a collection of Sophie’s memories, videos, and fantasies of the holiday.

A highly metaphorical movie, everything comes into focus in the final moments when we catch up with adult Sophie. It’s a movie about regret: she is mourning for a man she wants to know better. By revisiting a landmark moment in her past, Sophie searches for, with the empathy of adult understanding, the man her father was.

She is searching for meaning and probably projecting a little of her guilt onto his actions, creating her own Calum.

This is a sad movie, but not in the tearjerker sense. It’s the type of movie that lingers long after the credits are over.

I highly recommend this movie. Stream it on MUBI.

Manchester By The Sea

Casey Affleck plays the damaged, an understatement if I’ve ever written one, Lee Chandler. Lee is a man who has chosen to live apart from his hometown and his family. One day, while working at his janitorial job, he receives a call informing him that his brother is hospitalised. He rushes to the hospital, only to have missed his brother’s death. Lee reluctantly becomes the sole caregiver of his teenage nephew.

A heaviness, read grief, that’s bigger than his brother’s death looms large in every frame of this movie. As the movie progresses, Lee’s story is unpacked through flashbacks of events he cannot talk about.

In this movie, we witness a story about the different manifestations of enduring love. Its depth of emotion coupled with its simplicity makes it a surprisingly uplifting tearjerker. Give this movie a shot.

Stream it on Amazon Prime.

 

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