NBFF Film Review: A Touching Story Of Love, Loss, And Hope With 'In Lieu Of Flowers'
By Kathryn Schroeder
April 23, 2013

Director William Savage creates a touching story of love, loss, and mourning with his first feature-length film In Lieu Of Flowers.  Premiering at the 2013 Newport Beach Film Festival, audiences are sure to applaud the heartfelt sentiment found in the film.  As well as the never faltering feeling of hope for life after heartbreak that permeates the narrative.

"Death has come for me."--A statement that does not go without attention when spoken; especially when it opens a film.  Meet Eric (Josh Pence), a man who is struggling with the loss of his girlfriend a mere two months ago.  He has become reserved, uninterested in his friends, and an altogether melancholy soul.  Every woman he sees on the street that remotely resembles Gretchen places him into a state of frozen desire, only to succumb to pain when the reality sets in that it is but a mere stranger.  Then we have Rachel (Spencer Grammer), a woman who lost her husband suddenly two years ago and has yet to let go of him or their life together.  She, like Eric, has distanced herself from everyone around her, save for her father, and the grief she feels consumes her every day.  Eric and Rachael need each other, and they will find one another with the help of a weekly grief support group and plenty of cups of coffee at the local coffee shop.

In Lieu Of Flowers. Courtesy of Patina Pictures. 2013

It must be said that In Lieu Of Flowers is not an altogether romantic comedy. It has its moments of humor, and there is the spark of newfound love hinting in the distance for Eric and Rachael, but the story at hand here is not how two people end up together.  It is about how two people help one another to become whole once again, enabling them to have the ability to love someone again and move forward with their lives--whether it is together or on their own.  Establishing a romance between Eric and Rachel is not the goal in In Lieu Of Flowers and it is a much stronger narrative because of this fact.  The viewer is given an opportunity to really know Eric and Rachel because their time spent together is not burdened with romance.  Their friendship and grief provide the necessary boundary to create depth in what could have been just another romantic rom-com.  They also continue to experience life separately, as not every amount of information given in the film is shared amongst the two.  Eric deals with a shocking discovery about his life with Gretchen while Rachel tackles the deep rooted ties she has to her husband and their life--these are things they cannot share with one another because writer/director William Savage actually acknowledges that they are not indeed the closest of confidants after only meeting a few times.  Time is an important element in In Lieu Of Flowers, both as a device to portray the heavy burden of grief and to point out that with time comes trust, and with trust comes friendship and unrestricted openness. 

At the same time there is the constant hinting that Eric and Rachel will indeed end up together, once they both have healed from their respective traumas.  It does not come easy, and there is of course a twist at the end that changes everything.  In Lieu Of Flowers focuses on the difficulties of having loved and lost and how starting the journey again with someone else, or even fathoming its possibility, is very likely more difficult than getting past grief.  In Lieu Of Flowers is a remarkably touching story, filled with strong portrayals of emotion and most importantly, the advent of friendship.  Its real success is that it does not fall prey to genre conventions or force unrealistic goals upon its protagonists.  Eric and Rachel are not going to solve all of their problems by sharing a cup of coffee; nor are they going to fall madly in love one night and forget the pain and sadness that has consumed their lives over a given period of time.  There is hope, though, and In Lieu Of Flowers never allows its viewer to forget that essential fact. 

In Lieu Of Flowers will have its World Premiere at the Newport Beach Film Festival on Sunday, April 28, 2013.  To purchase tickets or for more information on the film/festival please visit the films official festival page:  NBFF: In Lieu Of Flowers.

Credits:

Director: William Savage   
Screenwriter: William Savage
Cast: Bonnie Swencionis, John Forest, Josh Pence, Melissa Rauch, Nate Corddry, Spencer Grammer, Tom Bloom, Will Greenberg
Executive Producer: Raymond Masucci
Producer: Jason Mandl, K'Dee Miller, Michael Melamedoff
Composer: C. Todd Nielsen
Cinematographer: Josh Silfen
Editor: Jonathan Schwartz, Rob Grigsby Wilson