So, you’ve been told that you’re dying, now what? Better yet, your friend just told you they were dying, now what? By The Grace Of… is the intensely autobiographical story of writer/director/star Dylan Reid pondering and reflecting upon his impending death.
As a very young boy, Dylan witnessed the slow but steady deterioration of his mother, who had Huntington’s Disease — a progressive breakdown of the nerve cells in the brain. After putting it off for a long time, Dylan decides to get tested for this genetic disease and receive quick confirmation that he has it. Fortunately/unfortunately, he has many years before things get bad. So what does an emerging filmmaker do? Make a movie, of course.
You can see that Dylan’s movie is incredibly meta. The main storyline involves Dylan’s struggle in finding the right story to tell. The film cuts between confessions from his friend and family about his condition and Dylan trying to live his life knowing his future is already planned for him.
By The Grace Of… not only explores the spectrum of emotions that Dylan is going through and that of his friends. Lucas (Laith Khalifeh) is Dylan’s closest friend and knowing he is going in for testing drops everything to support Dylan no matter the news. Lucas is probably rocked most by the news and turns to religion, taking the atheist Dylan with him to church one Sunday.
“As a very young boy, Dylan witnessed the slow but steady deterioration of his mother, who had Huntington’s Disease…”
The story then questions the nature of Dylan’s relationships altogether when he meets Lizzie (Grainne Ortlieb) at a party and decides to hide his condition from her. If you know you’re dying, is marriage…a family even in the picture. Is it fair to commit to marriage knowing the rough road the other person will face with life gets worse?
Then there’s the movie Dylan wants to make. His friend tells him the first draft has no story or conflict, but Dylan insists he wants to make a positive movie and not one solely focused on dying and grieving. Dylan then has flashbacks to his youth (and his future), when he has to teach potential actresses how to tremor like his mother.
Admittedly, death is not a fun subject for a movie. However, with By The Grace Of…, Dylan Reid does just when he set out to do—create a positive movie about dying. This very independent film is practically a journal of Reid’s thoughts and experiences with Huntington’s Disease. Dylan’s friends (both the fictional and actual ones) appear to give us their perspective on Dylan and what to do when someone you love is dying. There are not a lot of answers given, but a helluva lot of honesty. I mean, what CAN you say that will make everything alright?
The only criticism I have is the overall tone and energy of the film, particularly in the acting. It’s low energy, and I’m not sure if it is because of the serious subject matter. As much as the story is real, this is not a documentary but very much a drama. As a drama, it’s easy to equate low-energy acting with portraying authenticity. It can also come from actors trying to say their lines ideally by focusing on the words and less on the emotion behind them.
What I appreciate most is Dylan Reid and his friends’ willingness to share their experiences in By The Grace Of… Reid not only shares the challenges he faces with his future soon approaching but also allows friends and loved ones not to be afraid of sharing their honest feelings. Without saying anything, the ending was just perfect.
For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/dylan.reid.507
"…what I appreciate most is Dylan Reid and his friends' willingness to share their experiences..."