Posted: 08/16/2000


Saving Grace


by Del Harvey

Light-hearted comedy and winner of the Special Audience Award at the 2000 Sundance Festival.

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In a small seaside town in Cornwall a woman suffers the loss of her husband of many years. In such a small town everyone knows everyone, and no one has any secrets. The entire town turns out in support of the widow Grace Trevethan (Brenda Blethyn). Before long Grace discovers her husband’s secrets, including his devious misuse of finances without consulting Grace, leaving her destitute and in threat of losing her home.

Of her many friends in the small town, perhaps the closest is her handyman, Matthew (Craig Ferguson of The Drew Carey Show). She confides her financial woes to Matthew, who shows her the copy of his last paycheck, returned for payment. He’s not upset, and volunteers to work until she’s back on her feet. When easygoing Matthew comes to Grace seeking help with his ailing marijuana plants, desperate, middle-class, down-to-earth Grace decides she must do what she can to survive.

What ensues is a comedy of errors, reminiscent of older British films starring such classic comedians as Alastair Sim and Peter Sellars. Saving Grace is a sweet, warm-hearted film with a homegrown message and a sort of mad irreverence. The script was co-written by Ferguson with Mark Crowdy. The film was directed by Nigel Cole (Cold Feet), who delivers a Damon Runyon/Frank Capra-esque film that’s light and funny.

This ensemble comedy revolves around the quite considerable talents of Brenda Blethyn as Grace. Bleythyn (Secrets & Lies, Little Voice) is an actress with great range and control. She entices the audience to believe in her plight and to applaud her unorthodox means of survival. Ferguson often grates on me in his role on TV’s Drew Carey Show, but I found him very enjoyable and likable in this film, and I was especially surprised to discover he co-wrote and co-produced the film.

Playing Ferguson’s love interest is Valerie Edmond (One More Kiss, Complicity), whose character Nicky is a fisherwoman piloting her own boat in the cold Cornish waters. Friends and townspeople include Martin Clunes as the town doctor with a love of good grass, and Phyllida Law and Linda Kerr Scott as an elderly pair of sisters who run the town store and accidentally stumble onto Grace’s crop. One of the funniest moments occurs when they mistake the herb for a special tea and end up with a monumental case of the munchies.

The one complaint I had with the film is the soundtrack. The music is all good, but at times the songs seem to overwhelm the action on the screen. But this is a minor criticism for what is an otherwise very funny, sweet, and light-hearted film.

Winner of the Special Audience Award at the 2000 Sundance Festival, Saving Grace is good fun and one of the best come.

Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly. He lives in Chicago, and he survived Lucasfilm, the Walt Disney Company, and the Directors Guild of America.

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