(Since Grace is Gone is now screening in limited release, we're re-publishing James' review from the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.)
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.
(It is sweet and decorous to die for one's country.)
Sure, but try explaining that to someone who's lost a loved one in war; it may be sweet and decorous to die for one's country, but how is that consolation to the people left behind? How do you explain that kind of loss to yourself? How do you explain that kind of loss to children? And moving from the abstract to the concrete, as Stanley Phillips (John Cusack) has to ask himself, how can he explain to his daughters Heidi (Shélan O'Keefe) and Dawn (Gracie Bednarczyk) that their mom -- wife, mother, friend, U.S. Army staff sergeant -- isn't coming back to them because she's died in Iraq?
Well, for Stanley, the answer to that is simple: You don't. At least not right away. You stall for a few minutes. And then you stall for an hour. And then you stall a little more and ask the kids what they'd like to do while driving around Minnesota's chain restaurants and strip malls, trying desperately to think of how to tell them. And when Dawn says she wants to go to Enchanted Gardens -- a Florida fun park -- Stanley puts the family on the highway and heads South, because doing something stupid is invariably easier than doing something right.