Would knowing when you are going to die change the way you live? It's a concept that, even when not mentioned onscreen, runs throughout Dylan Reid's feature film "By the Grace of..." at all times. Well, reader, nearly all times. The concept is a powerful one to ponder on and although most people think they know the answer - thinking about and living through are two totally different things. This particular movie is all the more powerful because it's an autobiography. That includes some of the cast playing themselves, including Dylan. The bottom line for me? I believe it's reflected in my rating.
In the film, Dylan has been diagnosed with Huntington's disease, and although the news may be the equivalent of a one-two punch to the gut, it's not entirely unexpected. Dylan's mother was also afflicted and had, in fact, passed it down genetically. "By the Grace of..." opens with a few snippets from "film Dylan's" documentary he started making after getting his diagnosis. The remainder of the film focuses on the reactions of friends, Dylan's journey to make his film, and how he himself is handling the whole situation - including his decision not to tell the woman he is dating. Essentially, this is a mix of the standard documentary, a drama, and pieces of a film within a film. It's a little confusing to write out but makes perfect sense when watching. Strictly writing as a viewer, was it all worth it? One hundred percent. "By the Grace of..." is, and I hate to keep using the word, powerful.
The truth is that I'm really having a hard time figuring out what to write about this movie. Considering so many aspects of the film are true-life, what could I possibly write regarding the story? Should I write that the pacing and structure worked really well? Well, alright, I just did. In fact, it's the pacing and structure that really highlight what the movie is trying to convey. From the "movie in a movie" talking-head interviews with Dylan's friends and the imagery of his mother both during and just prior to the disease really taking hold ... there's a lot to unpack here. But for me, the most touching scenes were the ones where Dylan is talking about his reaction, as a child, to his mother's illness. It's during these moments this film feels raw and powerful. Add to this the already complicated mix of friends and even strangers reactions to Dylan's illness, and you have a really strong ninety-minute film. There's just no way around that.
Bringing things back full circle, and my first question still fresh in mind, I couldn't help but ask myself something similar. Does knowing this film is largely based on reality change my perception of it? The truth is that it probably does. Of course, it does. But this thought is followed quickly by another realization. The reason is irrelevant. I thought this was a great, touching movie, and the contributing reasons that made me think that way don't make a lick of difference. The bottom line is that Dylan Reid and his troupe set out to make an excellent movie and succeeded. So, really, what more is there to say? Four and a half stars. Excellent work.