"Grief and pain are dreadful, and to live free from them is to be truly blessed. But the truth is, we usually have no choice when it comes to loss. Eventually, it visits every one of us. And there is no magic or blessing that is found in this curse. There is no cosmic trick. But there is a different approach to facing our suffering — one that can lead not only to respite and relief from our pain and anguish, but also to an unexpected sort of wholeness." These wise words come to us from Matthew Gewirtz, the Senior Rabbi of Congregation B'nai Jeshurun in his book The Gift of Grief. They capture the essence of this simple yet deeply felt film.
In her feature directing debut Robin Wright plays Edee, a depressed woman who is carrying a heavy burden of grief and pain. Being around people only adds to her anguish and so she purchases a ramshackle cabin in the mountains of Wyoming. She stocks up on supplies and gets rid of her rental car, U-Haul, and cell phone. Although she has unobstructed views of the majestic mountains, she doesn't have time to really enjoy the place. Instead she finds herself busy doing repairs on the cabin, chopping wood for the stove, and lugging water from a local river. When a bear wrecks havoc on her possessions and food stocks, she is devastated.
As the seasons pass by, Edee is troubled by apparitions of her dead husband and son. Her unrelenting grief has a dire cumulative effect on her body and she suffers a physical breakdown. She is brought back into the land of the living by Miguel (Demian Bichir), a local hunter. When she regains consciousness, she asks him, "Why are you helping me?" He responds, "You were in my path."
Miguel is a healing presence in Edee's shattered life and so he listens carefully when she says, "I'm here in this place because I don't want to be around people." With empathy and insight, he tells her, "Only a person who has never been hungry thinks that starving is a good way to die."
Since she refuses to go to the hospital, he nurses her back to health and teaches her how to trap and hunt. A quiet and pensive man, his favorite song is "Everybody Wants to Rule the World." Miguel's jaunty manner of singing amuses Edee. In a very touching way these two souls, who have both been wounded by loss, reveal their secrets and, in so doing, empower each other. He helps her with her chief aspiration: "I want to notice everything around me more."
This emotionally engaging film confirms what all the spiritual traditions teach: there is no rigid pattern in grief's stages and phases. It also shows us how the experience of loss brings us into a direct and often painful encounter with the fragility of the body, the poisons that suck the life out of us, and the isolation which often keeps us from accepting the kindness, compassion, and restorative gifts of others.