20 Great Movies About Loss and Grief
“Grief starts to become indulgent, and it doesn’t serve anyone, and it’s painful. But if you transform it into remembrance, then you’re magnifying the person you lost and also giving something of that person to other people, so they can experience something of that person.” – Patti Smith
Witnessing the tragic departure of a beloved one, whether it be a son, a mother, a husband or a friend, is something that changes the way we deal with other people in a permanent way.
Even though it is said that grief is an indescribable feeling, some films have accurately portrayed, in an honest and emotive way, the feeling of losing a beloved one, through sublime performances and terrific arguments that do not leave the viewer indifferent.
The following list depicts several fascinating stories of those who felt the pain of such loss.
20. Beginners (2010)
Oliver (Ewan McGregor), a cartoonist mourning his father’s death, is the main character of this movie which unfolds through three periods of time, exposed and reflected by Oliver. A few months after his father Hal (Christopher Plummer) has passed away, he meets Anna (Melanie Laurent). Together they embark on a journey that shows the perks and challenges of giving ourselves away to a relationship and leaving the past behind.
Another time of the movie takes place when Oliver’s father tells him that he’s gay, he starts a relationship with a younger man and is diagnosed with cancer. In this period the movie approaches Hal’s determination and courage to find love and live faithfully to himself. Finally, the film displays flashbacks of Oliver’s childhood with special focus on Oliver’s mother.
The movie is a realistic and sincere portrayal of different kinds of love, loss, trust, connection and fresh starts, even when we know that not everything is meant to have a happy ending.
19. Welcome to the Rileys (2010)
Doug and Lois Riley have grown apart since the death of their teenage daughter. They became a frigid couple pretending to live a quiet life. Doug is a plumbing supplies contractor, who lives each day without the slightest enthusiasm. Lois has developed agoraphobia and can’t leave the house.
Doug later travels to New Orleans, where he meets a teenager stripper who make him rethink his life. Caring for her like a father for his daughter, he starts helping her to repair her messed-up life. At the same time Lois forces herself to leave the house and travel to meet Doug.
Each main character in the film recovers the hope and the strength to rebuild their lives, fighting as hard as they can against difficulties and aiming for better days.
18. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (2013)
The film’s mysterious narrative is told from Eleanor Rigby’s perspective. After Eleanor (Jessica Chastain) jumps off a bridge in an attempt to end her life, she returns to her parents’ house and starts a new beginning, leaving behind her old life. The life with her husband (James McAvoy), their friends and especially the memory of her baby suddenly died. Eleanor realizes that she can no longer try to regain the life she once lived.
In many cases, after losing a child, most parents also lose their identity. Not only as a couple but also as individuals. In the film, Eleanor finds the urge of regaining her identity and defining herself again.
17. Rabbit Hole (2010)
Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart are Becca and Howie Corbertt, a sophisticated sociable happy couple that become distant from those who are close to them and even from each other after their young son’s death in a car accident. The husband’s unsuccessful attempts to return to their normal life only increase the pain, guilt and sorrow of the wife, who lives a daily agony of an empty life.
The film considers the impact of losing a child, not only in a couple’s intimacy but also in their relationships with relatives, friends and co-workers. It also approaches the complexity of other people dealing with this couple’s anguish.
16. Monster’s Ball (2001)
Directed by Marc Forster, starring Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry and Heath Ledger, the movie is about putting beliefs in perspective and finding hope where it is least expected.
Hank Grotowski and his son are prison guards. Hank’s racist father lives with them. Even dying of emphysema and confined to a wheelchair, he still exerts authority over Hank, which has made him an abusive father towards his own son, Sonny. Suffering from low self-esteem and feeling he’s never going to live up to his father’s expectations, Sonny kills himself in a violent act of rage and despair.
When his son commits suicide, Hank is devastated. He quits his job and falls into depression until one night he finds Leticia, a desperate black woman whose son was hit by a car (dying afterwards in the hospital). These two devastated and sorrowful people eventually find consolation in each other’s arms and begin an unlikely but powerful relationship.
Monster’s Ball is a cinema masterpiece with authentic and mesmerizing performances which give the viewer the feeling of looking into somebody’s house window. Avoiding pitiful clichés, the film chronicles ugliness, hate, sorrow, love and redemption.
15. Up (2009)
This delightful animation movie from Pixar tells the story of a 78-year-old balloon salesman Carl Fredricksen who becomes widowed and refuses to leave the house that he used to share with his beloved wife.
The movie has one of the most touching beginnings in cinema. The first 15 minutes tells the story of how Carl and his future wife met when they were kids and the wonderful life they lived together.
After meeting the eight-year-old Wilderness Explorer named Russel, Carl finally fulfills the lifelong dream that he once shared with his wife — going on a great adventure. Together with Russel and a talking dog named Dug, he literally travels with his house on his back through the wilds of South America.