“Morning”: Leland Orser’s Film About Couple’s Loss of Child

Written by Leland Orser, the film Morning is apparently a downer. But then so is intense grief—and that’s what it’s about (Morning/Mourning?).

The plot, from IMDB:

Five days in the life of an American couple immediately following the accidental death of their child. An every day story of tragedy, loss, acceptance, hope and renewal. ‘Morning’ follows the divergent paths of Mark (Leland Orser) and Alice Munroe (Jeanne Tripplehorn) as they circle each other in a heart-breaking pas-de-deux of grief before finally coming to grips with their shared loss.

Rex Reed, New York Observer, sets up the story structure of Morning:

Told in four separate sections that begin with an alarm clock’s brutal ring at 6:30 a.m., the film’s chapters are connected by the same ritual: An elderly, lame, but loyal housekeeper makes a long trip by bus to an elegant home in Los Angeles and can’t get in…And, each day, the housekeeper returns, ready for work, dutifully trying to ease her employers’ grief, stacking their unread newspapers in a neat pile on the porch and sliding the unopened mail into the mail slot, feeling helpless. Finally, she sits down on the steps and lights a candle, sharing sorrow and loss in her own quiet way—without speaking a single line of dialogue.

Tripplehorn, by the way, is also Orser’s spouse in real life. Watch the Morning trailer:

The Character of Mark Munroe

Rex ReedNew York Observer: “Mr. Orser, the excellent actor from the cast of E.R., plays Mark, the husband who locks himself in his bedroom, chews sleeping pills and pain killers like mints and crawls around on the kitchen floor in his underwear eating Fruit Loops, ignoring the phone and the doorbell.”

Stephen HoldenNew York Times: “Mark hardly speaks, preferring to drink, take pills by the handful and vent his anguish by piling up vases of flowers in the center of the living room and demolishing them with a golf club.”

Alice Munroe

Rex ReedNew York Observer: “Alice, the wife (played by the luminous, graceful Jeanne Tripplehorn), checks into an antiseptic, impersonal hotel room and wanders aimlessly around one of those blindingly over-lit California malls buying children’s clothes and leaving them behind in shopping bags. She drives through traffic with the windows in her station wagon rolled up, screaming.”

The Grief Counselor (played by Laura Linney)

David LewisSan Francisco Chronicle: “During their riveting scene together, no life-changing advice is rendered, and Alice struggles to make any sense. The conversation is basically nothing – and everything.”

Mary, the Friend

Stephen HoldenNew York Times: “The most words spoken by any character belong to Alice’s best friend, Mary (Julie White), whose well-meaning advice offered in a tone of forced cheer, drives Alice to scream in frustration.”

The Housekeeper

Sara Stewart, New York Post: “…(N)one [of the rest of the cast] gets as much screen time as their elderly housekeeper (Gina Morelli) as she plods to and from the house every day. I found her weariness contagious.”

Selected Reviews

David LewisSan Francisco Chronicle:

…Orser, to his credit, never resorts to psychobabble, cheap sentiment or emotional shortcuts…

On the surface, this may seem like a bleak film, because it’s so raw. But ultimately this is a movie about the mysterious ways in which we find a path toward healing, and its beautiful final moments stay with you.

Joe LeydonVariety: “…an initially intriguing but ultimately exhausting tale of grieving parents left quite literally dazed and confused in the wake of their young son’s death.”

Stephen HoldenNew York Times: “…one of the more harrowing explorations of grief ever brought to the screen. By the end of its 95 minutes, only a faint ray of light has penetrated the gloom.”

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