Elizabeth Olsen Explores the Messy Glory of the Uncurated Life
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During the fourth episode of the second season of Facebook Watch’s stellar drama “Sorry For Your Loss,” Leigh (played to perfection by Elizabeth Olsen) tells her editor that he’d have her copy in an hour – “90 minutes, tops” – before turning back to an empty screen, waiting for her words to come.
It’s a small moment. Easy to overlook for those unfamiliar with writing and how blown deadlines often become hostage negotiation between yourself and your editor, held captive by the most unpredictable assailant of all: your brain.
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But that small moment is what keeps popping up when I try to find my way into this very story, an exploration of the the low-key brilliance of a series dedicated to both unraveling the tangled emotional journey that is grief and navigating the messy reality of depression. Because it’s not a series about bereavement or healing, it’s a series about life and how complicated it is to live in the world. It’s dedicated to getting the little things right. Like, how all over the world, writers are currently lying to their editors about where they are in their writing process.
Created by Kit Steinkellner and premiering today on Facebook Watch, the second season of “Sorry For Your Loss” is unflinching in its commitment to exploring loss even when it’s uncomfortable, knowing that with difficult topics, sometimes the most valuable thing you can do is bear witness to someone else’s pain. But what does a series nominally about grief do in a second season? Does someone new have to die? Is it a betrayal to see characters healing or are they destined to exist forever in a place of unimaginable bereavement?
On a set visit during work on Season 2, Steinkellner explained the storytelling process the show used as they worked on cracking the next chapter in Leigh’s story.
“The metaphor I used was this woman has been stranded on a distant planet, and her goal [in Season 1] is to just emerge from the wreckage. make sure her oxygen tank is working, and get to that nearby crater 100 feet away,” she said. “That’s Leigh’s goal, is just surviving. And she did. She survived.”
“And so, we wanted to tell the story that comes next, which is once you get your head above water, once you know you can swim, what do you do?” Steinkellner continued. “You have to move forward. So, to continue the space metaphor, this season really felt like rebuilding the spaceship. It’s rebuilding your life. It’s, ‘Okay, I am surviving. What am I going to do now? Who am I going to be? What’s this all going to look like?'”
But Season 2 is not just about Leigh’s journey. Now that the character has stabilized, the series has the bandwidth to expand its scope and spend more time with loved ones in her immediate circle. That means more screen time and character development for the show’s ridiculously deep bench of actors, including Kelly Marie Tran (Leigh’s sister Jules), Janet McTeer (Leigh and Jules’ mom), and Jovan Adepo (Leigh’s deceased husband’s brother Danny). Even Leigh’s dead husband Matt, played by Mamoudou Athie, is allowed room to change and grow, thanks to the series skillful deployment of flashbacks.
“A lot of this season is all about perception cause we’re seeing a lot of Matt and Danny’s interactions from Danny’s point of view, and occasionally from Matt’s point of view,” Athie said, before explaining that because Matt will only ever appear in someone else’s memory, he faces a unique challenge on the series. “For me the past is the present. That’s all I’ve got.”
Throughout Season 2, it’s clear that the show hasn’t lost a step when it comes to depicting the complicated path of bereavement. At every turn, characters are conflicted about what they feel and if they should be feeling it and, ultimately, how to deal.
And Olsen couldn’t be happier about it.
“The mess. Like, allowing a mess,” the actress and executive producer responded when asked what she was most anxious to depict in the second season. “I feel like we didn’t actually see Leigh hit rock bottom the first season. We just kind of see her tread water in different ways either confidently or frantically or like slow or fast. I just feel like she hadn’t completely lost her grounding.”
“And I think there is a, there are a couple of beautiful episodes where we get to see people making, as Kit says, ‘big mistakes and big choices,’ which turned out to be big mistakes, these incredibly helpful obstacles they struggle to move beyond,” she continued. “But I think the thing that we want to keep going back to is the cyclical nature of grief.”
The actress acknowledged that while for some viewers, that cycle may vexing, that it was important to be true to the experience. “It might be frustrating for people who want to know, ‘When do you move on?’ It’s like, well, if you ask anyone, they don’t,” Olsen says. “But the relationships shift and the relationships change and develop. And I think we learned certain secrets we didn’t know before. I think there is stuff that is very gratifying from a storytelling standpoint, far beyond just being a story about grief.”
There’s always been something a little detached about Facebook within popular culture. Long before David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin dramatized its inception in “The Social Network” people inherently understood that what others shared on the platform was not a reflection of life as they lived it, but instead the very best, most beautiful, most flattering version of their life that they could represent. It was life, curated.
“Sorry For Your Loss” is photo negative of Facebook. To watch it is to see your own life, often the most difficult parts, reflected back to you in loving detail, allowing you to feel empathy for characters that you wouldn’t necessarily extend yourself.
That makes the scripted drama the realest thing you’ll ever see on social media.
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