- State of Grace
- Directed by: Stephen Wallace Pruitt
- Starring: Sarah Drescher, Charla Bocchicchio, Meagan Flynn
- Drama| 13+ | 1 hr 48 min
By Reed Ripley
The opioid epidemic isn’t new⎯more than one million people have died thanks to opioids (prescriptions, heroin, fentanyl, etc.) since 1999, including around 125,000 in 2019 alone. Even so, for those fortunate enough to have not had a loved one succumb to opioids, or those outside of the communities most directly infected, it’s too easy to shunt those very real societal issues to the side. Local film production State of Grace doesn’t take that easy path, and it results in a brutal, moving portrait of a mom desperately trying to pick up the pieces of her life in the face of fentanyl addiction and heartbreak.
The story centers on Erin (Sarah Drescher), whose daughter, Grace, is placed into foster care after the police raid her home and find Class A felony amounts of fentanyl. Although the fentanyl stash isn’t hers, she’s still addicted to the synthetic opioid, and the film follows her moving journey through the legal system and a recovery program to reclaim some fulfillment in her life, not only out of love for her daughter, but also increasingly out of a love for herself.
State of Grace is also a not-so-subtle story of postpartum anxiety and depression, and as important as the opioid epidemic is, postpartum mental health issues have affected far more people across a far greater period. Sure, falling into crippling fentanyl addiction while simultaneously losing loved ones is an extreme example, but the underlying mental struggles that drove Erin to fentanyl abuse are extremely common. It’s hard being a mom, and even harder reconnecting with your own personal identity outside of being a mother, and that deserves all the recognition it can get.
Although the story and its heart are rightfully the main draw, that’s not to say there aren’t a few fun technical flourishes, too. The camera is used effectively throughout⎯in especially frantic moments, including the opening police raid and initial taking of Grace, the camera is handheld and shaky, enhancing Erin’s nervous and desperate feelings. Conversely, in calm, stable moments (e.g., group addiction therapy, quiet dinners), the camera is set and still. There’s also a good variety of shots (the wide shots especially do a great job of showing some local flair), and Randy Bonifeld’s engrossing score deserves recognition, too.
State of Grace was filmed exclusively in Kansas City, including KCK, KCMO, Raymore, Independence, and South Kansas City. That really shows throughout the film (shoutout to Breit’s Stein and Deli and the RideKC buses, as well as Paul Robeson Middle School in south KC), and that deliberate featuring of Kansas City makes the underlying story feel much more tangible, especially for Kansas Citians. These are the same streets, neighborhoods, and businesses that we move through daily, and using that as the backdrop makes Erin’s story feel all the more real and grounded in our community.
If you want to check out State of Grace locally on the big screen, make sure to head to Glenwood Arts this weekend, where the film will screen for three shows only⎯Friday at 7:10 p.m., Saturday at 4:10 p.m., and Sunday at 1:10 p.m.