A husband awakes one morning to find that his terminally ill wife had passed away during the night. With his whole world shattered, he sets out to complete a list of errands and chores left behind by his wife in an attempt to deal with his loss. Unfortunately, with a feeling of nothing left to live for, he begins to lash out at the world around him and do things he never thought of doing before.
Canadian born brothers Brett and Jason Butler have been regularly turning out low-budget and independent comedies since the early noughties. They debuted with "Alive and Lubricated"; a film about how a group of men and a group women deal with the ending of a relationship between their friends. Continuing on with these slice-of-life and personal relationship themes, they made their follow up films, "Bums" and "Confusions of an Unmarried Couple". They also went on to write and act in (but not direct) "The Notorious Newman Brothers" but they eventually made their return to the directing chair with "Mourning Has Broken"; their darkest yet most interesting film so far.
A husband awakens one morning to find that his wife has finally succumbed to her illness and has passed away. With no children in their home and no longer having that one person he had devoted himself too, he finds himself unable to cope with his grief. Instead he finds solace in attempting to complete a to-do list that was left by his wife. With each errand he runs and each encounter he has with people, he finds that he cannot ignore the inevitable. He also realizes that he is no longer worried about consequences and chooses to deal with certain situations in a rather hostile manner.
I had initially discovered the work of the Butler brothers after seeing the trailer for "Mourning Has Broken" and, thankfully, was able to order copies of their first two movies from their company's website (Substance Productions) and found their third on Amazon's Instant service. Originally, I had planned on waiting to see "Mourning Has Broken" when it was released because I was a bit nervous with their movie because Bobcat Goldthwait's movie, "God Bless America", was released not that long ago. The movies appeared to share a similar concept -- although other movies have had a similar idea before "God Bless America" -- and I was afraid I wouldn't find enough separation between the two.
Thankfully, but not surprising, I was completely wrong. Granted both movies do somewhat share a similar idea -- a man lashing out at the world around him due to something devastating happening in their life -- but each movie treats the material much differently. While most people (myself included) enjoyed "God Bless America" because it was a cathartic experience about a person dealing with everyday problems in a manner most of us, oddly, wish we could ourselves (as messed up as that sounds). It was satisfying on an escapism/fantasy and entertainment level but nothing more, unfortunately.
However, "Mourning Has Broken" is a realistic and emotional experience by looking at the biggest problem every couple faces when they find that one person they want to spend the rest of their life with: What do we do when that person is no longer there? Unfortunately, in the face of death, there is nothing we can do except try to find a way to cope and that's what "Mourning Has Broken" examines; Robert Nolan's character -- simply known as 'Husband' -- tries to deal with his loss by trying to treat his wife's as if it were any other day.
While the concept may sound more like a heavy drama, "Mourning Has Broken" is actually a dark-comedy. The movie openly embraces the dramatic and emotional elements but many of the situations the husband character finds himself in are often comedic. It is one of those movies where I think viewers could be divided by perhaps wanting more comedy over the drama or vice versa. In the end, I think Jason and Brett found a nice balance between the two.
With that being said, what won me over and what I find to be significant in "Mourning Has Broken" is how the movie and Robert Nolan treat the emotional elements. My fundamental problem with dramas is that they almost always feel like they're nothing more than people sitting around saying, "I'm sad because…" No actual emotion. It's actors talking about how they're feeling. Because the movie's focus is on Nolan trying to work through his list and none of his interactions with other characters are directly related to his wife's death. Everything that the character is feeling and experiencing is told through Nolan's performance and not his words, and it's an exceptional performance.
"Mourning Has Broken" is a perfect example of that old adage of show don't tell. While the movie has some funny moments of Nolan keying cars, tackling a father verbally abusing his son or, my personal favorite, disrupting a young couple holding hands while they talk on their cell phones -- and then coming back again, refusing to let them hold hands. Where the movie shines through, in terms of acting and directing, is watching those small moments where the character begins to fall apart. Where the harsh reality that the love of his life is gone and trying to carry on through a daily routine cannot change that. It's those kind of moments that makes the movie and the characters feel real and makes the movie rather heartbreaking, even while you watch Nolan pummel a lawn mower with a baseball bat.
Even though I was a bit hesitant in the beginning, "Mourning Has Broken" proved to be a much more satisfying viewing experience because of how it treated the material. It's a concept about a lie couples tell themselves everyday that the person they love will always be there, and what can occur when we are eventually forced to face the truth. And I apologize if I'm making the movie sound a bit too heavy-handed in the dramatic parts because it is a movie that has the right mix of drama and comedy, so it's not this depressing experience. Not entirely, anyway. Rather it's a movie that offers different things for the viewers to appreciate and find enjoyment in. For me though, it was the drama in the idea and execution that I favored from watching "Mourning Has Broken".
From a production standpoint, the movie is the strongest title to date from Brett and Jason Butler, and it was also great to see Robert Nolan step outside the horror genre in something that showed his range and ability as an actor. "Mourning Has Broken" is well done on all fronts and shows the progress of Jason and Brett in terms of writing and directing, which is always great to see as a film fan. Best of all, I think "Mourning Has Broken" is an engaging movie that will have the viewers examining their personal lives and begin to wonder what it is that they would do.
Note: "Mourning Has Broken" will be available on VOD and iTunes through IndieCan Entertainment in first quarter of 2015.