Sometimes I like to do prep work before checking out a film I’m planning to review and other times I like to go in blind. In the case of Getting Grace, a film about a teenage girl dying of cancer, I went in pretty blind. In fact, I only knew that it was about a girl dying of cancer and that it had a modest budget. To my surprise, the film opened up with a shot of the Steel Stacks in Bethlehem, PA – not more than 30 miles from my home. This setting is really interesting for a lot of reasons, ranging from its aesthetics to its history to many personal connections and stories from the people of the Lehigh Valley.
The Steel Stacks in Bethlehem represent economic prosperity and economic loss in a very unique way. The city of Bethlehem grew around the booming steel industry, notably the company known as Bethlehem Steel. Once the largest employer in the Lehigh Valley region of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Bethlehem Steel was a leader in the steel industry. One day it all came crashing down and the region suffered great economic loss. It has taken a long time, but the region seems to be doing pretty well these days… however, for a long time the once great paying jobs were replaced only by low wage jobs and the once strong middle class was replaced by a larger number of working poor. The stacks represent a much storied portion of the region’s history.
The physical appearance of the Stacks adds to this film’s opening, as well. The factory and it’s majestic furnaces have a steampunk beauty to them. In fact, these days, the area is primarily dedicated to the arts, provided the backdrop to many great concerts and shows. There’s a certain melancholy added the concerts and shows with this behemoth in the background, which is perfect for a film that tackles cancer, death, and dying in the way that this film does.
Getting Grace is about a young girl dying of cancer. Despite being only a teen, she seems to have come to grips with death in a way that no one else around her is able to. Taking control of her own funeral arrangements, she changes the lives of everyone around her. Pain and suffering are part of the story, but it’s the positivity of Grace, the optimistic and strong teenage protagonist, that really defines what this story is all about.
This film manages to somehow tackle difficult topics with a fun, quirky indie comedy feel. This is primarily due to two main things, the fantastic script and the powerful performance from Madelyn Dundon as Grace. The young up-and-comer Dundon is captivating on screen. Her energy and optimism are infectious. However, without the words and actions written for her to bring to life, she could not have been nearly as powerful. Thus, the two coming together create magic on screen.
Setting it in the Lehigh Valley also really strengthened the film. Even for those not from here or as familiar with the backdrop, it adds a certain type of unique American experience to the story that really works.
Overall, it’s fair to say that this is a fantastic way for the world to be introduced to Daniel Roebuck as a feature film director, as well as a strong introduction to a young and talented actor in Dundon. Check out why this film is winning awards and creating buzz for yourself. It’s available now via Amazon On Demand and several other outlets.