Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Carey Mulligan, Susan Sarandon, Johnny Simmons, Aaron Johnson
Written & Directed By: Shana Fest
The Greatest is a family melodrama and an untraditional love story. It is really about loss and how to come to terms with it. For some it is how to face it while others it is just about letting go. It shows broken families and the how different losing a loved one is for every person dealing with tragedy.
Bennett Brewer (Johnson) was a perfect student, very involved in school. He was what everyone dreams their child would be. He had an extremely bright future ahead of him and was just beginning to have a relationship with the girl he has had a crush on for years, Rose (Mulligan). In that night that they were together, they fell in love. Seconds later they got in to a car crash, injuring Rose and killing Bennett.
His family is completely devastated by this and struggle with it every day. Bennett’s mother, Grace (Sarandon), can’t get her son out of her head. It is killing her that she doesn’t know what her son’s last moments were like. She realizes that it is very possible that the last person to talk to him was most likely the boy who crashed in to Bennett’s car, who is now in a coma. Grace is determined to know and begins redecorating this boy’s hospital room along with talking and reading to him every day in hopes that he will wake up and give her the missing pieces. Bennett’s father, Allen (Brosnan), seems to be having the opposite problems, rather than obsessing over what happened he is having trouble acknowledging it. When Bennett’s name is mentioned he immediately changes the subject. Pretending like it didn’t happen is a lot easier for him than facing the painful truth.
Bennett’s younger and more rough around the edges brother, Ryan (Simmons), was too hung over from the night before to even remember anything from his brother’s funeral. The bad things about his brother, the things that drove him crazy and made him feel inferior is what stands out to him while Bennett is still praised even in death. Ryan begins going to meetings, talking to other young people who have lost someone close to them. It takes him awhile to open up. He doesn’t feel the same why these people do and how he thinks he probably should be feeling.
Amongst all of the fear, anger, and clashing among the family in this difficult time for them things get a little more complicated. Rose comes to their door and tells them that she is pregnant with Bennett’s baby. Her mother has mental problems and is staying in a home that can treat this. At this point Rose really has no place else to go so Allen agrees to let her stay with them. Grace is furious about this, she only sees Rose as a bad influence and blames her for his death. She doesn’t at all want to condone the baby. Still, Rose becomes a part of their dysfunctional family. Rose gets along with Ryan, but even more so, she becomes very close to Allen. The two spend a lot of time together, which sparks a certain amount of jealousy in Grace, causing her to blame Rose more.
In The Greatest Pierce Brosnan gives one of his best performances as Allen Brewer. Allen has suffered through loss himself and had the proper mentality and personal experience to really bring some truth and understanding to this character. There is one scene that everything his character has shown builds up to; when he finally releases the emotion that he has been holding back. Brosnan does manage to give us a very good performance full of one man’s fear of the loss he has encountered as well as losing what he still has.
Susan Sarandon did very well as Grace. Sarandon brought a great level of obsessive desperation to the table. For most of the movie she was not a very likeable character just because of the cold and almost vicious person that this turned her in to. She quickly falls apart, becoming more and more fragile, moments away from completely breaking.
Sarandon and Brosnan did wonders for the film, but the most impressive performances came from the newcomers, Johnny Simmons and Carey Mulligan. Simmons really delivers. His character is completely unconventional. He isn’t the perfect son that his brother was and he still resents him for that. It’s not easy to play a character who still holds a grudge against his dead brother, yet Simmons makes him one of the most likeable characters in the film. He is our underdog, the invisible child, the screw up, which makes him highly relatable since most of us have felt this way at one time or another in our lives. Also, he gives us some great comedic relief along with Mulligan, helping the film from becoming too dark and depressing. Simmons does really well with the revelation he comes too. We understand him far before this point, but when he does get there the emotion is at a high point and impossible not to affect you.
Carey Mulligan gave a completely incredible performance as Rose. She gives out this very quirky, creative, and very fun energy. Mulligan is bursting with charisma and charm, working beautifully with every one of the characters. She starred in another Sundance favorite this year, An Education. It seems that Mulligan will not be a stranger to us for very long.
The love story side of the film is different than what you are used to seeing, but it is done so well that it takes a hold of your heart. The first scene shows Rose and Bennett together, really taking the moment in. They are in a car together and stop, simply to take to get to know each other better. That is when the car hits and it is questionable if they will ever get that chance now.
Towards the end of the film, Rose tells Allen the story of how Bennett and her met. As Rose beautifully narrates the story with great admiration and love, we see how they met each other. They knew each other and both had crushes on the other all throughout high school. Neither of them never talked to the other though. They both had practice every day after school and would pass each other in the hall at the exact same time. When they did they would be waiting, gazing right in to the others’ eyes. It was a powerful moment that they shared and treasured every day for four years. Finally on the last day of school Bennett approached Rose and the two finally took that next step in the love they had felt for years.
The Greatest deals with a lot of different people and how they react to this tragic event in their lives making it impossible for any of them to really be there for the other. The film doesn’t just show us the love between Rose and Bennett, but the love that has been lost between Allen and Grace. They have been torn apart and are in such a terrified and fragile state. Regardless of this, they do find a way back to loving each other and recognize the happiness that they still have through that.
The Greatest is a very realistic take on loss. It hit my emotions hard and is definitely the film at Sundance that was the most heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. The Greatest is an emotionally profound tearjerker that will make you feel and relate for every one of the characters in the film. You can’t walk away from this movie unaffected. Still, you won’t be walking away depressed either. It is astonishing for such a tragic and sad subject, it still offers some hope and light throughout the darkness.