Grey Matter Image

Grey Matter

By Ryan Devir | April 16, 2024

High school can be a time of narcissism, where we think we’ve seen and know it all. Parents and adults exist in some other universe that can’t possibly begin to understand our woes. In director Arabella Burfitt-Dons’ Grey Matter, written by Elizabeth Hrib, a teenage girl’s depression and senioritis are given a reality check when her grandmother is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

After quitting the swim team and getting fired from her job, Chloe (Eloise Smyth) is stuck in the quicksand of a teenage existential crisis. She has distanced herself from her parents and friends. When asked, Chloe can’t quite name what she’s feeling, but she is undoubtedly drowning in an unnamed anger. After reluctantly visiting her grandmother, Nan (Stephanie Beacham), she and her family realize that Nan is becoming dangerously forgetful and cannot live on her own.

Nan is soon diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, and the family is left not knowing what long-term care might look like. Since Chloe no longer has any summer obligations, her mother (Elizabeth Berrington) tasks the teen with being her grandma’s caregiver while she and Chloe’s father (Paul Brennen) are working. What at first is seen as a reluctant teenager’s inconvenience evolves into a transformative relationship of love, forgiveness, maturity, and precious time, which will forever change Chloe, Nan, and their family.

“Since Chloe no longer has any summer obligations, her mother tasks the teen with being her grandma’s caregiver…”

Grey Matter has a lot of heart and a maturity that’s missing from many coming-of-age films. Yes, there is a romance subplot, but the real focus is on the family struggling to hold themselves together and let go of what they cannot change. Surely, the trauma of losing a loved one to Alzheimer’s cannot be simplified in 95 minutes, but what the story does is quite remarkable, considering the characters we get in Hollywood films today. These characters actually grow. Chloe has an arc. Wild, right?

Yes, there’s the typical deflated father, who is more of a presence than present. Mom is overbearing and can’t quite relate to her teenage daughter. But Chloe isn’t superwoman. In every film today, the kid characters are without fault, and the parents are big dopes who can only hope to learn from their self-reliant children. However, the lead does something truly heroic by admitting something is wrong with herself, asking for help, and seeking to improve. By caring for her grandmother, Chloe is able to shift her focus from sinking deeper and deeper into despair and instead grow more appreciative of the moment.

Grey Matter does not feature any drama surrounding not having a date for prom. Nor is there a realization that the jock isn’t all that, and the lead’s really been in love with her best friend the whole time. Those stories are entertaining, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes teenagers need stories that inspire them beyond the superficial happily ever after. This is one of those tales.

Grey Matter (2024)

Directed: Arabbella Burfitt-Dons

Written: Elizabeth Hrib

Starring: Eloise Smyth, Stephanie Beacham, Elizabeth Berrington, Paul Brennen, Harry Kirton, etc.

Movie score: 7.5/10

Grey Matter Image

"…teenagers need stories that inspire them beyond the superficial happily ever after."

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