"The Grotto"

"The Grotto"

March 7, 2023
Thomas Goodwin Smith

The Grotto is a heartwarming film about finding community and forging your own happiness. The film reflects the idea that life is abundantly full of meaning as it tells the story of a woman who struggles to invite color and happiness back into her life after the recent loss of her fiancé by suicide and subsequent loss of her home. The gut punch of an opening creates a mystery for Alice to uncover, which director Joanna Gleason expertly weaves into a story that hooks audiences and keeps our attention transfixed while the film’s ultimate message begins to unfold.

The Grotto balances its underlying assertion that life hard yet worthwhile with a quirky sense of humor. A series of lovable supporting characters make the world of The Grotto come to life, providing antics for us to laugh at, hardships for us to follow, and relatable goals that make us reflect on our own humanity. The film is set just before Christmas, although LA’s warm climate and characters’ frequent trips into the nearby desert makes audiences forget about the holiday — reminders that characters should be feeling festive are played for laughs.

Another of Gleason’s strengths is in telling a story that deconstructs established tropes and challenges societal stereotypes, which is evident throughout The Grotto’s 96 minute run time. Alice is almost immediately presented with the opportunity to forge a new life in Paris after fiancé Nick’s death, a seemingly well-times work trip that most cinematic heroes would jump at. The Grotto examines a different sort of self-rebirth through a series of serendipitous events culminating in Alice’s fateful decision between leaving for Paris and staying in California with her newly found family.

The film also offers a particularly thoughtful commentary on the gay community insofar as it debunks notions of an uncomplicated “petting zoo” gay best friend and reflects the reality of hardships faced by the LGBTQ+ community. Although we may conceive of liberal cities like LA as being queer-friendly, The Grotto is intentional about its portrayal of unexpected barriers to a person living their truth and the kind of kitchen-table homophobia that leaves the gay community feeling misunderstood. This characterization of queer experiences also reinforces the theme of survival in the face of adversity.

Ultimately, The Grotto offers a deterministic message, where Alice’s significant choices and hidden talents matter. Betsy takes increasing control of her own happiness, community, and destiny in a way that is sure to leave viewers satisfied. The Grotto is a great film with wide-reaching appeal to anyone who wants to see an upbeat, fun, feel-good film that addresses a potent sense of loss.

Feature Film: "The Grotto"
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Narrative Feature. 100 min.