Daniel Levy Makes Netflix Directorial Debut – The Hollywood Reporter

London and Paris are beautiful, the handsome actors look stylish in their voluminous coats, slouchy trousers and distressed knits, and there are countless teary-eyed close-ups designed to touch our hearts. But Netflix Sadness for goodDespite its extensive insight into the characters’ psyches, it is entirely superficial, perfectly watchable but a bit dull. Worked both behind and in front of the camera after gaining experience directing episodes Schitt’s CreekDaniel Levy’s first feature film is a glossy drama about love and loss and the restorative power of friendship. But this is more serious than touching.

The opening scene makes this movie, if not a Christmas movie, a Christmas movie. Levy plays Mark, a London artist who abandoned his own creativity to become an illustrator of a series of best-selling fantasy books written by his adoring husband Oliver (Luke Evans) about the telepathic truth-seeker Victoria Valentine, which has become a major film franchise.

Sadness for good

Bottom line

There’s nothing too deep here.

Date of issue: Friday, December 29
Throw: Daniel Levy, Ruth Negga, Himesh Patel, Luke Evans, Celia Imrie, David Bradley, Arnaud Valois, Mehdi Baki, Emma Corrin, Kaitlyn Dever
Director-screenwriter: Daniel Levy

Rated R, 1 hour 40 minutes

Before heading to a book signing in Paris, Oliver oversees the annual sing-along at their holiday party, leading guests in a stunning choral arrangement of William Bell’s seasonal classic, “Everyday Will Be Like a Holiday.” This is the most emotional moment in the film. But just as Mark says goodbye, flashing lights on the street indicate an accident involving Oliver’s taxi.

A devastating loss shortly after the death of Mark’s mother leaves him clinging tightly to his chosen family – drunken, posh Sophie (Ruth Negga) and hapless, lonely ex-boyfriend Thomas (Himesh Patel). Already at Oliver’s funeral, a tonal uncertainty creeps in when the actress who plays Victoria in the films (Kaitlyn Dever) performs at the service, dressed in a completely inappropriate outfit and doing everything possible only for herself. It’s a biting, hard-hitting satire that feels out of place. Oliver’s father (David Bradley) puts things back on track in a moving speech delivered with aching tenderness.

Mark’s disturbing discovery from the couple’s accountant (Celia Imrie) that Oliver owns a house in Paris leads him to finally open the Christmas card his husband gave him before he left that fateful night. What he learns makes him rethink his entire marriage and seems to make fun of the year he spent grieving. Keeping the information to himself, he invites Sophie and Thomas to spend a weekend with him in the French capital, ostensibly as a sign of gratitude for their loving support.

Similar situations in which widowed spouses are confronted with the secrets of their deceased partners have been explored in films ranging from European auteur dramas such as Kieślowski’s. Three colors: blue unforgettable studio works such as Sydney Pollack Random hearts.

But Levy’s interest in this stunning discovery does not stop there. Ultimately, external factors leave Mark no choice but to fill in the missing pieces for Sophie and Thomas, by which time the focus has shifted to the emotional stagnation in the lives of all three. Their mutual dissatisfaction flares while riding on the huge Ferris wheel on the Place de la Concorde, set against the backdrop of the shimmering night sky of Paris.

The bizarre setting of this scene—much like visiting the Orangerie after hours with a romantic Frenchman (Arnaud Valois) to watch Monet’s Water Lilies—is typical of a film that superficially embellishes the drama of familiar relationships but too rarely goes beyond the banal or theses from popular psychology about how we cope with grief or how indispensable trusted friends can be in overcoming emotional crises.

The shimmering melancholy of Rob Simonsen’s score often suggests a depth of feeling that is missing from the writing and, by extension, the performance. The script is sensitive but not overly insightful, and the film’s intimacy is staged rather than lived-in. Sophie put Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” on the turntable and raised her glass, “It hurts like hell!” It’s too on the nose to be anything other than sentimental.

Like Dever’s unfortunate cameo, Emma Corrin appears in a thankless moment as a performance artist spinning in a web of knitting in a London warehouse-gallery. But other than showing the three friends in their creative environment, the scene adds nothing.

There may be something to think about here about grief as a path to introspection and creative rebirth. Of course, there is no reason to doubt the sincerity of Levi’s intentions. But it fails to translate all that emo talk into a compelling drama, creating a film that could serve as streaming fodder (it hits Netflix on Jan. 5, after a week in some theaters) though not distinctive enough to draw you in and will make you care very much about its characters.

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