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Morning


2010 | 95 min | R | 1.78:1

Morning

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Theatrical release date


 27 September, 2013

Country of origin


 United States

Box office


 $4,029

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Morning Preview  

5
 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, September 26, 2013

“Morning” tackles a devastating subject matter, surveying the psychological wreckage left behind after the death of child. It’s certainly not an easy filmmaking endeavor, demanding a special sensitivity to avoid television movie hysterics, preserving the nuances of such unfathomable pain. In director Leland Orser’s hands, “Morning” eschews the organic grind of grief and all its unpredictable behaviors to play out as an extended acting exercise, trying to pass off excessive indication as profound feeling. It’s a difficult sit, and not nearly as moving as it should be, with its central idea of lost communication buried under layers of artificiality, damming the mournful flow.



After the death of their five-year-old son, married couple Alice (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and Mark (Leland Orser) have walked away from each other, unable to express their intricate feelings due to the shock of it all. As Mark attempts to return to his workday routine, Alice freaks out, threatening divorce if he goes, eventually taking off into town as her husband returns home to flounder in his misery. Pestered by concerned friend Mary (Julie White), Alice tries to push away the world, getting a hotel room and spending time wandering around a mall, trapped in a sleepless daze that demands medical attention. Getting in touch with grief counselor Dr. Goodman (Laura Linney), Alice struggles to define her pain, while Mark spends the afternoon regressing to the mentality of a child, hoping to reconnect with the boyish spirit that exited his life much too soon.

“Morning” has been hanging around for quite some time. Shot four years ago, the feature has encountered difficulty finding distribution, though it’s easy to see why studios would be wary of bringing this effort to the public. Orser has made a gloomy, passive picture, and one that sticks to repetitive scenes of Alice and Mark making pained faces, groggily marching to nowhere in particular. “Morning” doesn’t dissect the grieving process, it replicates it, asking viewers to watch two formaly functional people gradually cycle through a nervous breakdown, tracking Alice as she fails to find comfort in retail therapy and casual encounters, while Mark strips to his underwear and plays with his son’s toys, fighting to summon the lost life through juvenile antics.



It’s difficult to argue with the potency of the emotions burning through the characters, yet “Morning” never feels genuine. Performances by the leads are on the showy side, with Orser permissive with flailing acts of despair, giving into artifice as a way to make the ache cinematic. Tripplehorn overplays Alice’s scattered mindset with acting tics, concerned with showing the grieving mother’s agony instead of internalizing such weariness, helping the film reach a special unsettled quality that would go a lot further to understand the woman’s mental ruin. Tripplehorn’s committed to the role in full, but it’s affected work, making “Morning” resemble an audition reel from a particularly eager actress. The supporting cast is most welcome here, with Linney, Elliot Gould, Jason Ritter, and Kyle Chandler (playing a fellow hotel guest who misinterprets Alice’s body language) popping up for brief appearances, allowing a little fresh air in with them.



What “Morning” gets right is disorientation, as the screenplay withholds the details of the death until the final act, increasing its cathartic effect. The audience doesn’t know exactly what’s going on with Alice and Mark, only that something horrible has happened and the couple has turned away from each other, with divorce looming during this horrible day. There’s also a housekeeper (Gina Morelli) who enters the film on occasion, cleaning up household messes and experiencing her own grief-based candle lighting ritual. Mystery is Orser’s best asset, leaving the feature with something to chew on as it dramatically spins its wheels. “Morning” was never going to be an easy viewing experience, but it’s surprisingly cold to the touch, keeping the abyssal pockets of grief and frustration firmly on the screen instead of inviting outsiders to experience the sorrow as well.

Starring: Leland Orser, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Laura Linney
Director: Leland Orser

» See full cast & crew


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