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The Greatest, a deeply moving and challenging film
by Erik Sean McGiven on Apr 05, 2010
The Greatest is a deeply moving and challenging
film about grief and how a family survives after the lost of their near perfect
son. The film stars Pierce Brosnan and
Susan Sarandon as an affluent couple whose lives are shattered when their
oldest son is killed in a car crash.
Once they had an orderly happy life, he as a college mathematics
professor and she as a stay at home mom codling her two sons. The sudden and unexpected death of
eighteen-year-old Bennett (Aaron Johnson) sends them into uncharted territory
for which they are ill prepared.
The outstanding performance by the cast transcends clinical
depictions of grief and gives us characters that are both unique and
memorable. Watching this movie, I found
myself deeply attached to their plight and the pain they felt. Sarandon is strikingly sympathetic as the
frail yet obsessive mother who wants details about her sons last moments. Brosnan's calm demeanor skillfully masks a
man hiding his deep inner turmoil. The
ride home from the cemetery gives us the first glimpse of the grief this family
faces. Itís a long scene and the mother,
father, and remaining son sit silently as the limousine moves through tree line
neighborhoods. For Brosnan, it's a
non-verbal monologue, a sonnet you might say, about the intense emotional
suffering caused by loss, sorrow, and his deep sadness and mental pain. We almost feel he's going to implode. This scene sets the stage for what is to
follow and asks the question, can this family survive this catastrophic lose?
While the film staggers through the grieving stage the
parents and their remaining son (Johnny Simmons) process their pain separately
and differently. They are almost
non-responsive and deadened by the lose. There's a hint of a recent affair
between the math professor and is lovely colleague (Jennifer Ehle) prior to the
son's death, a story facet that could have been developed further. Onto this gray stage comes a ray of sunshine
in the form of Rose ("An Education's" Carey Mulligan), Bennett's new
girlfriend who was injured in the car accident.
She shows up at the parent's home pregnant with Bennett's child. Her presence sends a deeper divine into this
polarized family, yet her gentle touch slowly heals the suffering and gives
them hope when they realize she was their son's greatest love.
Bennett and Rose's long-gestating romance is told in
flashbacks and provides a genuine poignancy that will resonant well with
filmgoers. While the film lacks a strong
narrative cohesiveness it is the performances make it entertaining. The fact that the characters grieve insulated
from one another makes relationships difficult to script. Each has an internal battle and they are so
immersed in their own sorrow they unable to fully console one another. It is only the introduction of Rose that
makes them see their folly and helps them discover that love and time will heal
the pain. "The Greatest" is a film that should find a home in the
hearts of those able to withstand a goodly amount of horrendous grief and stick
around for a most rewarding and satisfying ending.
CREDITS: Stars Pierce Brosnan, Susan Sarandon, Carey
Mulligan, Johnny Simmons, Aaron Johnson, & Michael Shannon. Director-screenwriter: Shana Feste,
Producers: Lynette Howell, Beau St. Clair.
Executive Producers: Pierce Brosnan, Aaron Kaufman, Doug Dey, Ron
Hartenbaum, Douglas Kuber, Myles Nestel. Director of Photography: John
Bailey. Production Designer: Judy Rhee.
Music Christopher Beck. Costume Designer: Luca Mosca. Editor: Cara
Silverman. Production Company: Barbarian
Film Group. 98 minutes. Reviewed at MethodFest, a festival that
celebrates actors and acting.
September 22, 2019