Directed by Sebastian Armesto Starring Andrew Keatley, Jacob Casselden, David Acton, Carolyn Pertwee and Sophie Roberts Indie Film Review by Jack Bottomley
Truth is stranger than fiction it is often said but the nature of truth is not always so easy to accept. In various documentary features and factual short films directors seek out people or subjects that – whether big or small – stand as evidence of just how beautiful, complex and indeed bewildering truth can be. There is a whole world out there and everyone has a real story to tell, however sometimes the best stories are told not with reality but with a blurring of the real and the fictitious. However the best films that blur these boundaries, are the ones that still emerge with an honest, genuine and yes truthful story to tell and that is For Grace.
Opening with a, more astute than you initially expect, quote from the Adventures of Pinoccio, For Grace is a mockumentary without the ‘mock’. Telling the story of Ben (Andrew Keatley), who was adopted as an infant to loving parents, the film sees the now father and husband urged to seek out his biological parents, as a result of the recent birth of his own daughter Grace. This journey takes him to some unexpected and illuminating places. There are many depths to For Grace beyond its documentary trappings but believe me the less you know going in, the stronger the experience will be. So very often cinema attempts to tell stories of this ilk and either lather on the Hollywoodish sugar or misstep the characterisations but For Grace makes no such mistakes and is a warm, friendly and heartfelt journey that will speak to the souls of many real people who have experienced similar things in their lives.
Written by Andrew Keatley, as well as starring him, this film is an emotive and engaging joy, that manages to attain such a heightened sense of realism, not just because of the aesthetic but because of the belief you have in the characters. True the film does get over eager in presenting its central twist (with an initial scene kind of giving it away a couple of minutes prior) but it is hardly less shattering and lump-in-throat as a result. In writing a story like this you have to be so careful to avoid emotional manipulation or over stepping bounds but Keatley’s (largely improvised by the cast) script is honest and has a heart of gold, with an inclusive message that refutes the “you can’t choose family” saying. Sebastian Armesto has clearly attempted to blur lines here and he does so very effectively with even those knowing the film is a fiction feature sure to be utterly caught up in the narrative.
This is largely down to some fantastic performances, with Keatley offering a very believable, stubborn and determined lead in Ben and he is matched beat for beat by an astonishing Jacob Casselden as Peter (a deaf character integral to the film but we are not saying why #NoSpoilers), who is absolutely sublime in presenting a strong man with a heart that we come to discover. There are also welcome turns from David Acton and Carolyn Pertwee as Ben’s loving adopted parents David and Harriet and Sophie Roberts as Ben’s caring and most insightful wife Sophie. It is this spellbinding strength of the performances that has you utterly gripped by this emotional journey, that is a most human and accomplished piece of filmmaking. Even if it is a bit shorter than we would like, with the resolution being quite instantly coming about, this is but a minor quibble in a film that is simply heart swelling and with many brilliant messages about the power of family and connection, even in the face of crushing truths.
Brilliantly edited by Joseph Brett and Sebastian Armesto, very thoughtfully directed by Armesto and with some fantastic cinematography and settings, perfectly sourced by Directors of Photography Iris Lebrun and Scott Norris, this is an impressive piece of work. And be it the initially unusual (but it comes to have a relevance) score by David Brett (who also has a small part in the film) or the heartbreaking twists, superb characters or inspiring themes of turning disability into ability and loss/separation into happiness and family, For Grace is a film that is for many people out there and one we recommend most highly.