Movies About Grief

Rabbit Hole – Nicole Kidman

dying1Grief in the Family – What happens after the unthinkable happens? Rabbit Hole, based on the Tony-winning play by David Lindsay-Abaire and deftly directed by John Cameron Mitchell, slowly reveals the answer: something else unthinkable. Rabbit Holeis a moving, dark character study of what happens to a happily married couple, Becca and Howie (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart), who suddenly lose the love of their life, their 4-year-old son. As in real life, the grief portrayed inRabbit Hole takes peculiar twists and turns, and the deep sorrow and tragedy of the story is leavened by dark humor–much of it coming from Kidman. While Rabbit Hole is not an upbeat film, it’s emotionally resonant in the ways of some of the best films on similar subjects–like Ordinary People, Revolutionary Road, In the Bedroom.
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Taking Chance – Kevin Bacon

dying2Military Grief – Based on the true experiences of Lt. Colonel Michael Strobl, who wrote eloquently of them in a widely circulated 2004 article, Taking Chance is a profoundly emotional look at the military rituals taken to honor its war dead, as represented by a fallen Marine killed in Iraq, Lance Corporal Chance Phelps. Working as a strategic analyst at Marine Corps Base Quantico in VA, Lt. Col. Strobl (Kevin Bacon) learns that Phelps had once lived in his hometown, and volunteers to escort the body to its final resting place in Wyoming. As Strobl journeys across America, he discovers the great diligence and dignity in how the military, and all those involved with preparing and transporting the body, handle their duties. Equally important, he encounters hundreds of people affected by Chances death, a vast majority of whom never knew him. This collective grieving eventually causes Lt. Col. Strobl, a veteran of Desert Storm now assigned to office duty, to probe his own guilt about not re-deploying to Iraq for the current conflict. Arriving in Wyoming, Lt. Col. Strobl completes his catharsis when he encounters Chances gracious family and friends, and discovers an extraordinary outpouring of community support.
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Five People you meet in Heaven

grief3Spiritual Aspects of Death and Loss – Based on the bestseller by Mitch Albom (Tuesdays With Morrie), The Five People You Meet in Heaven takes up where It’s A Wonderful Life left off. In the Capra classic, George Bailey gets a vision of life without him. In this Hallmark Hall of Fame production, Eddie (Jon Voight), an amusement park maintenance man and war veteran, ends up in Heaven after an accident takes his life. There he meets five people from his past: the Blue Man (Jeff Richards), the Captain (Michael Imperioli), Marguerite (Dagmara Dominczyk), Ruby (Ellen Burstyn), and Tala (Nicaela and Shelbie Weigel). Each shows him how he impacted their life or they his–and not always for the better. (In these flashbacks, Callahan Brebner and Steven Grayhm play the young Eddie.) The point may seem simplistic–everyone is connected–but The Five People You Meet in Heaven finds a unique and engaging way to make it. – Kathleen C. Fennessy
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City of Angels – Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan

dying4Spiritual Aspects of Death and Loss – Pragmatic heart surgeon Maggie doesn’t believe in angels…until she meets one. That angel is Seth, who can remain a spiritual being and live forever. Or he can forsake his immortality on the chance that Maggie might love him. Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan star in the rapturous and tender romance City of Angels.
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Hereafter – Matt Damon

the-needs-of-the-dying-a-guide-for-bringing-hope-comfort-and-love-to-lifes-final-chapterSpiritual Aspects of Death and Loss – Genre master Clint Eastwood tries something different with the languid, introspective Hereafter–and succeeds (for the most part). All of the characters at the heart of Peter Morgan’s screenplay, which has the feel of a European art film, have suffered a loss or survived an ordeal. They feel disconnected from those who can’t relate, which is most everybody. George Lonegan (Matt Damon, Invictus), a Bay Area factory worker, developed psychic powers after a childhood illness but just wants to lead a normal life, despite his brother Billy’s efforts to turn him into a John Edwards-like celebrity (Jay Mohr plays Billy). Marie LeLay (the versatile Cécile De France), a TV reporter, emerges unharmed from 2004’s Indian Ocean earthquake, only to find her Parisian existence slipping away from her (the tsunami sequence that opens the film is frightfully convincing). And in London, soft-spoken 12-year-old Marcus (Frankie McLaren) loses his twin, Jason (George McLaren), only to end up in foster care. While George reaches out to a lovely, if insecure woman (the overly jittery Bryce Dallas Howard) he meets in a cooking class, Marie writes a book about her experience, and Marcus seeks spiritual guidance. In a Babel-like turn of events, all three find themselves in the United Kingdom, where they cross paths, but what sounds contrived plays out in a surprisingly believable fashion. Eastwood and Morgan (The Queen) don’t presume to know what happens after death, suggesting instead that those who search for answers deserve something other than disrespect and derision.
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Shadow Lands

dying5Grief – This emotionally moving romantic drama was adapted by William Nicholson from his own acclaimed play, based upon the real-life romance (during the 1950s) between the British writer C.S. Lewis and a divorced American poet named Joy Gresham. Best known for writing The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Lewis (Anthony Hopkins) is living comfortably as a respected Oxford don, his academic lifestyle a kind of shell protecting him from the emotional risk of love. Joy Gresham (Debra Winger) arrives at Oxford as an avid admirer of Lewis’s writing, and the safety of his collegiate routine is quickly disrupted when Lewis realizes that he’s fallen deeply and unexpectedly in love. Their courtship is uniquely engaging; he’s shy and uncertain, she’s outspoken and bold. But when Joy is diagnosed with cancer, Lewis’s Christian faith is put to the test–he cannot fathom why their happiness together would be so drastically challenged. Together, they find a way to accept and honor the time they have shared together, and under the sensitive direction of Richard Attenborough, Shadowlands arrives at a conclusion that is both heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. Hopkins and Winger are equally superb in this absorbing story of personal and spiritual transformation
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Tuesdays with Morrie

dying6Grief – Based on a true-life story, TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE is a loving memoir to a man whose lessons on life have much to teach us about ourselves. Academy Award(R)-winner Jack Lemmon (Best Actor, 1974, SAVE THE TIGER) delivers an outstanding performance as Morrie Schwartz, the Brandeis University professor upon whom the best-selling book is based. Hank Azaria (GODZILLA) plays Mitch, an accomplished journalist so driven by his job, he has little time or energy left for anything else. One night, Mitch happens to catch Morrie’s appearance on a national news program and learns his old professor is battling Lou Gehrig’s disease. After the telecast, Mitch contacts Morrie, and what starts as a visit turns into a pilgrimage as Mitch opens his heart to the lessons Morrie has to teach him. As the bond grows between these two men, Mitch learns that professional commitments don’t mean anything without the love of family and friends. Sure to inspire, TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE may just change your views on the meaning of life.
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What dreams may come – Robin Williams

dying7Suicide – Academy Award-winners Robin Williams and Cuba Gooding, Jr. embark on a supernatural journey beyond the realm of mortality in this visually stunning and unforgettable epic. After Chris Nielsen (Williams) dies in an accident, he tries to remain close to his beautiful mortal wife, Annie (Annabella Sciorra). With the friendly spirit (Gooding, Jr.) assigned to guide him, he begins to adapt to his new state of being in a setting that can only be described as heavenly. But when his distraught wife takes her own life, she is banished to an eternal damnation. Chris vows to find her so they can share eternity together, but no one has ever succeeded in rescuing a soul from such a horrific fate. With the help of his heavenly friends, Chris sets out on the most perilous and harrowing journey of his life, or afterlife: a quest for everlasting love that will take him to hell and back!
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WIT – Emma Thompson

dying8Death – Deservedly hailed as one of the best films of 2001, Wit makes it clear why top-ranking talents seek refuge in the quality programming of HBO. Unhindered by box-office pressures, director Mike Nichols and Emma Thompson turn the most unglamorous topic–the physical and psychological ravages of cancer–into an exquisite contemplation of life, learning, and tenacious, richly expressed humanity. In adapting Margaret Edson’s compassionate, Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Nichols and Thompson open up the one-room setting with a superb supporting cast. But their focus remains on the hospital experience of Vivian (Thompson), a fiercely demanding professor of English literature whose academic specialty–the metaphysical poetry of John Donne–is the armor she wears against the cruel indignities of her cancer treatment. While losing all that she held dear, she reassesses her life as an aloof intellectual, and Witilluminates her bracingly eloquent and deeply moving struggle for dignity, meaning, and peace at life’s ultimate crossroads.
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The Descendants – George Clooney

dying8Grief – Matt King (George Clooney) is a Honolulu-based lawyer and the sole trustee of a family trust that controls 25,000 acres of pristine land on the island of Kaua’i. Though he has been able to manage his money, most of Matt’s cousins are broke from squandering their share of the inheritance. The trust will expire in seven years because of the rule against perpetuities, so the King family has decided to sell the land to Kaua’i native Don Holitzer for development. Just before family members are ready to formally endorse the deal, a boating accident near Waikīkī renders Matt’s wife, Elizabeth, comatose.
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Message in a bottle – Kevin Costner as Garret and Robin Wright Penn

dying8Loving Again – Theresa Osborne, a former reporter, works as a researcher for the Chicago Tribune. On a trip to Cape Cod, she finds a mysterious, intriguing love letter in a bottle in the sand, addressed from Garret to Catherine. She is fascinated by it and comes into possession of two more letters by the same person, eventually tracking down the man who wrote them, Garret Blake. He has refurbished a boat called Happenstence with his wife before her death and he lives quietly on the Outer Banks of North Carolina near his father, Dodge. Theresa and Garret become better acquainted, but she does not reveal her knowledge of the love letters. Along with the literal distance between them — they live hundreds of miles apart—there is another problem: Garret cannot quite forgive Catherine for dying and leaving him.
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The Secret Life of Bees – Queen Latifah

dying8Sibling Loss – THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES, based on the New York Times best selling novel and set in South Carolina in 1964, is the moving tale of Lily Owens (Fanning) a 14 year-old girl who is haunted by the memory of her late mother (Burton). To escape her lonely life and troubled relationship with her father (Bettany), Lily flees with Rosaleen (Hudson), her caregiver and only friend, to a South Carolina town that holds the secret to her mother’s past. Taken in by the intelligent and independent Boatwright sisters (Latifah, Okonedo and Keys), Lily finds solace in their mesmerizing world of beekeeping.
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Lorenzo’s Oil – Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon

dying8Child Dying – A true story about a battle for the life of Lorenzo who suffers from ALD. A rare disease which destroys all basic functions like speech and movement and in the end takes the life of the person. In this movie the parents fight the clock by doing their own research and investigation.
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Manchester By The Sea

dying8After the death of his older brother Joe, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is shocked that Joe has made him sole guardian of his teenage nephew Patrick. Taking leave of his job as a janitor in Boston, Lee reluctantly returns to Manchester-by-the-Sea, the fishing village where his working-class family has lived for generations. There, he is forced to deal with a past that separated him from his wife, Randi (Michelle Williams), and the community where he was born and raised.
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The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity by William P. Young

dying8After suffering a family tragedy, Mack Phillips spirals into a deep depression that causes him to question his innermost beliefs. Facing a crisis of faith, he receives a mysterious letter urging him to an abandoned shack in the Oregon wilderness. Despite his doubts, Mack journeys to the shack and encounters an enigmatic trio of strangers led by a woman named Papa. Through this meeting, Mack finds important truths that will transform his understanding of his tragedy and change his life forever.
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Ordinary People

dying8Tormented by guilt following the death of his older brother, Buck, in a sailing accident, alienated teenager Conrad Jarrett (Timothy Hutton) attempts suicide. Returning home following an extended stay in a psychiatric hospital, Conrad tries to deal with his mental anguish and also reconnect with his mother, Beth (Mary Tyler Moore), who has grown cold and angry, and his emotionally wounded father, Calvin (Donald Sutherland), with the help of his psychiatrist, Dr. Berger (Judd Hirsch).
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Collateral Beauty

dying8When a successful New York advertising executive (Will Smith) suffers a great tragedy, he retreats from life. While his concerned friends try desperately to reconnect with him, he seeks answers from the universe by writing letters to Love, Time and Death. When his notes bring unexpected personal responses, he begins to understand how these constants interlock in a life fully lived and how even the deepest loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.
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Philomena

dying8In 1952, Irish teenager Philomena (Judi Dench) became pregnant out of wedlock and was sent to a convent. When her baby, Anthony, was a toddler, the nuns took Philomena’s child away from her and put him up for adoption in the United States. For the next 50 years, she searched tirelessly for her son. When former BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) learns of the story, he becomes her ally. They travel together to America to find Anthony and become unexpectedly close in the process.
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Defending your life

dying8Daniel Miller (Albert Brooks) isn’t having a good week. For starters, he died after he got hit by a bus. Then he discovers that in the afterlife he must defend his actions on Earth in order to ascend to a higher plane of existence. While awaiting judgment, he falls in love with Julia (Meryl Streep), whose near-perfect life on Earth seemingly makes her a shoe-in for ascension. However, Daniel’s actions in his lifetime might not be enough for him to move on.
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