As I was walking out of the theater after seeing The Greatest, I had the urge to find myself a broom closet or some other nearby private place so I could cry for at least five minutes. It’s that type of movie and not just because it’s so sad. It’s a very emotional film all around that will likely have people dabbing their eyes as they watch two parents come to terms with the loss of their son. The Greatest is both heartbreaking and heartwarming all at once.

The film opens with a semi-steamy scene between Bennett (Aaron Johnson) and Rose (Carey Mulligan). Afterwards when they’re in the car together, Bennett is about to confess his feelings to Rose when a truck hits them from behind and Bennett is killed. The story follows Bennett’s mother (Susan Sarandon), father (Pierce Brosnan), his brother Ryan (Johnny Simmons) and almost-girlfriend Rose (Carey Mulligan) as each of them grieves both separately and together for the loss of Bennett, whom we learn throughout the movie, was an all around great guy.

Bennett’s mother grieves day and night for her son, while his father is attempts to detach himself from the loss in an effort to stay strong for his family. Ryan has lived in the shadow of his brother all of his life and now even after his brother’s death he’s still playing second fiddle. He turns to a teen grief support group where he meets Ashley (Zoe Kravitz), another grieving sibling who understands what he’s going through. Rose, shows up at Bennett’s family’s house to introduce herself and having no where else to go, they agree to take her in. Her presence adds a new layer of grief as Rose wants to know Bennett better through them, yet no one in the family is really emotionally capable of talking to her.

As we watch Bennett’s family and Rose grieve, we get the occasional flashback of Bennett through Rose’s memory. It is through these flashbacks that we come to understand just how unique their relationship was. While the flashbacks are happy, they’re bittersweet because we know how things are going to turn out for Bennett and Rose’s budding romance.

The Greatest has moments of levity that keep the movie from becoming entirely too depressing but for the most part, this is a film about love and grief. Sarandon in particular delivers such a raw performance that at times, it becomes uncomfortable to watch her because it’s clear her character is on the verge of falling apart and though her husband wants to help her, he doesn’t know how. Brosnan delivers a fantastic performance as the helpless husband who’s bottling up his grief for the sake of his family. As Ryan, Simmons carries the role well as the occasionally strung out and slightly bitter younger brother who secretly admired his big brother despite always being outshined by him. Surrounded by exceptional acting, Mulligan holds up well as Rose, the sweet girl who’s dealing with her own grief and looking to get to know the man she believes was the love of her life.

In general, I’m apprehensive to see films that seem to be sad for sadness’ sake, however The Greatness really does successfully capture the heartbreaking grief involved in the loss of a child as a family tries figure out how to move past it. The grief in the film feels real and if you can handle the almost painful realism, this could be a cathartic experience for anyone who has had the unfortunate experience of losing a loved one. What’s more, there’s a love story here that is both happy and sad, as we see how Bennett and Rose got together and how their relationship played out up until the final moments of his life. I let the theater wanting a good cry and not just because the movie was sad but because there’s an emotional depth here which rings true.
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