In the UK, this movie was pitched as a fairly upbeat take on a family's recovery from the sudden death of the mother. Instead it is a painful and ultimately touching exploration of the strategies people use for coping with grief, loss and intense guilt.
Unlike other people who have left comments on IMDb, I found this a tense, gripping film. There may be little in the way of physical action but this is because the entire drama is played out at a psychological level. The youngest daughter is overwhelmed with guilt and self-loathing at having inadvertently caused her mother's death. The oldest daughter's fury at her sister over the death leads her to reject the younger girl through increasingly cruel behaviour, while her own grief leads her into ever-more dangerous situations. The father is so wrapped up in his own pain that he is unable to communicate with his daughters, missing all the clear warning signs of trouble despite his clear love for them.
This film is one of the most touching and true-to-life portrayals of bereavement I have seen. It is extremely understated but that makes it all the more powerful as it feels so real. The dramas are the small dramas of everyday life - a teenage girl staying out beyond curfew, a young girl missing for a few hours, a man's meaningless flirtation with a younger woman. As in real life, these feel tremendously important when they happen but generally mean nothing and have no lasting effects. Although these small dramas usually lead nowhere, Winterbottom builds them up to reflect the magnitude of feelings inside his characters.
I can see why people might find this film slow-paced but for me this was not the case. The psychological drama and pain of the characters more than compensated for the lack of physical action - and it was flawlessly acted. If you are interested in human relations, particularly family relations and grief, this is well worth seeing.
20 out of 28 found this helpful