John Cusack is one of the character actors I admire. And in Grace is Gone, it centers upon his ability to bring you into his character's world. He really transformed himself into the role of Stanley Philipps with his thick glasses, walking with an instep, and that little hunch and a paunch, and delivers probably one of his finer touches in disappearing into a character that's so everyday average Joe. He's a salaryman earning his keep while watching over his two girls while Mrs Grace Philipps (Dana Lynne Gilhooley) is a career soldier who gets her tour of duty in Iraq.
The crux of the entire story laid on the premise of Stanley trying to find the appropriate moment to tell his children about the unfortunate demise of their mother, while at the same time fighting hard to accept the bitter truth that the woman he loves is gone. More so of course when it is revealed later some things that can no longer be reversed in time, which makes it all the more sad, and regrettable.
But we also learn more about Stanley through the eyes of his children, when they throw the occassional tantrum, or have issues to deal with. Shelan O'Keefe as Heidi the older daughter, is a remarkable actress, lending some gravitas to her role when it called for it, and holds her own opposite Cusack very well. Gracie Bednarczyk as younger daughter Dawn I guess was just being herself, injecting much needed effervescence to counter the heavy drama that circulates throughout the movie.
Besides some expected and really moving scenes in the movie, some from plot devices, while others from the characters themselves, writer-director James C. Strouse also managed to sneak in a comment or two about War and Truth, which is what we make it up to be, most of the time. Alessandro Nivola also turned in a rather short but nice performance behind that heavily bearded appearance as the brother of Stanley and the children's uncle.
If I need another plus point to recommend Grace is Gone, then it will be the score by Clint Eastwood (yes, what a surprise when the end credits rolled), punctuating the story neatly when it called for it. All in all, a story without any major plot twists (since the title already said it all), simple yet effective, and hinged very much on excellent acting to bring the characters to life.