Sorry for your loss ★★★★
This sensitive but unsentimental drama series about life, loss and complicated human relationships opens with a close-up of Elizabeth Olsen’s beautiful but pale face and large, expressive eyes. She plays recently widowed Leigh Shaw and talks about the cost of death, explaining that she saw an infographic that equates losing a spouse to a sacrifice of $308,780 a year. She thinks about the validity of the proposal and the accuracy of the amount.
As the camera slowly rolls back, she reveals that she is in a group therapy session and the gathering is a bereavement group. Like the foreground, the series created and written by playwright Kit Steinkellner and produced for Facebook Watch opens with more details about Leigh, her family and friends, and the impact of grief.
Leigh had been married to Matt (Mamoudou Athie), who died in circumstances not initially revealed and who appears in flashbacks. She had written an advice column and taught classes at a fitness studio owned by her mother, Amy (Janet McTeer). She has a romantic but thorny relationship with her adoptive sister, Jules (Kelly Marie Tran), and a thorny, less romantic relationship with Matt’s brother, Danny (Jovan Adepo).
Matt had been a teacher, although Leigh encouraged him to pursue his dream of creating cartoons. But how well Leigh knew Matt becomes a key issue in a drama that more broadly questions the essential unknowability of people, even those we love.
Part of the question of Leigh’s understanding of Matt is represented by her phone, the passcode of which she cannot decipher. Objects frequently trigger vivid and jarring memories in the series. It can be a hair on a razor or a rock on which aspirations have been inscribed. The rock is there because Amy believes in mood boards, consults with her inner child, and writes life goals on rocks before throwing them into the ocean at the summer solstice.
With different writing and casting, Amy could have been reduced to a cliche of West Coast flakiness. Here, she is a dynamic woman who has built a business and raised two daughters while embracing philosophies that have served her well. Amy also believes in the power of objects: when Leigh finally returns to the apartment she shared with Matt, Amy advises her not to rush the clearance process, warning: “Your stuff has meaning and it needs to be handled with due respect.
While McTeer’s performance invests Amy with distinctive dignity, Olsen displays her range as Leigh. She moves convincingly through a spectrum of raw emotion, ricocheting from misery and resentment through selfishness and painful loneliness, while embodying the joy that radiates from some of the flashbacks.