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Grace Is Gone

A contemplative family drama about life and loss on the homefront

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Amid all the hollering and partisanship that the Iraq war has generated in our culture is writer-director James Strouse's quiet homefront drama. When Minnesota everyman Stanley Phillips (John Cusack) learns that his soldier wife has been killed in Iraq, he takes his two young daughters on a road trip rather than tell them. Strouse's film is so low-key it veers dangerously close to dull; without much plot -- when will the girls learn? -- Grace draws its tension from Stanley's anguish and growing panic. Cusack is always a likable actor, and both young actresses -- Shélan O'Keefe and Gracie Bednarczyk -- are good. Strouse chose to film Stanley's flight from reality in a weirdly impersonal landscape of night-time gas stations, budget hotels and, from the car window, an unchanging vista of roadside chain retail and fast-food venues. While it may help signal the sensory numbness Stanley feels, when dialogue about fighting for one's country popped up, I had to wonder if all this soulless plastic was worth the reputed cost. Starts Fri., Feb. 22. Regent Square

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