You know the old platitude that someone is (insert compliment) for a (typically disparaged group)? To get an accurate review of Facebook Watch’s newest offering, “Sorry For Your Loss,” I’m going to have to dust it off. So yes, “Sorry For Your Loss” is good. For a Facebook Watch show. “Sorry for Your Loss” boasts a thought-provoking premise not easily compared with others currently on television.
In the wake of her husband Matt’s (Mamoudou Athie, “The Front Runner”) sudden death, young widow Leigh (Elizabeth Olson, “Ingrid Goes West”) must cope with long-standing family drama, the expectation from others to just be OK again and the realization that she may not have known as much about Matt as she previously conceived. Ironically, what makes the show so original is part of the reason why it fell so flat — it’s as almost as though they had HBO-level ideas with a Freeform-level action plan.
Despite the strong premise, the show does not elaborate from there. By the episode’s conclusion, I had no strong connection to any of the characters. Frankly, none felt engaging or likable. This very well could have been because Leigh is depicted as a barre class instructor who chooses to yell into a microphone to teach a class of 12 or because the mom reminded me of every difficult white woman I’ve ever seen in a Michael’s Craft Store.
This fault was only highlighted more by the raw realism of the general premise. Characters either felt incomplete, like Leigh’s sister Jules (Kelly Marie Tran, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”), or inconsistent, like Leigh herself. Jules’s alcoholism is given as much depth as a kiddie pool; the chance to delve into her internal conflict of committing to her recovery while her life is not in a perfect vacuum was squandered in favor of her simply saying that she’s “better now.”
Moments like Leigh’s blow up at her grief group were unfounded. It’s understandable that the point was to show her unraveling, but the tone of the dialogue in the scene felt out of place. It was too comedic. Yes, dramedies are a thing, but an indication of a good one is a consistency in tone that “Sorry For Your Loss” lacks. Most importantly, I simply cannot place the trajectory of where this show will take us for multiple seasons. This show does not seem to have the entertainment value to carry an audience for years; it would fit into a mini-series or even a film format much more comfortably.
After all, the exploration of loss and the process of grieving is definitely the show at its strongest. Rather than flatly mentioning through dialogue how happy Leigh and Matt were before his passing, the writers took a page from “This Is Us” with the inclusion of flashbacks. These flashbacks ensure that Matt is an actualized character, rather than just a tombstone that we have to feel sorrow for with every mention. Viewers are able to see their relationship, and make assumptions about its strengths and weaknesses for themselves instead of only hearing about it from Leigh’s perspective — a shrewd choice as a large fraction of the show is based around the holes in Leigh and Matt’s marriage.
The flashbacks are also used skillfully to illustrate the show’s central point: just how little we care about loss or death unless we are directly affected by it. There is a poignant moment midway through the episode where viewers flashback to pre-death Leigh answering an advice column question about loss. She breezily answers that “it’s not the end of the world.” We then flash back to modern day, where Leigh’s world is evidently over. Viewers are forced to wrangle with the question, “why are we so uncomfortable with discussions of death?” I even internalized for a moment if this is why the show didn’t seem to initially pique my interest.
“Sorry For Your Loss” currently is the crown jewel of Facebook Watch, but on a pseudo-network that boasts the likes of “Ball in the Family” and the Degrassi-knock off “Five Points,” clearly it does not take a tremendous amount of entertainment value to become its standout.