I stepped out of the car in my high heels (that I never wear) and my pretty, cream cocktail dress. My hands were trembling. We made our way down the main road through Paramount Pictures toward the red carpet of the Return To Zero film premiere. I felt like I should pinch myself; was this a dream? I couldn’t believe I was actually attending a Hollywood film premiere. And this wasn’t just any film; it was a film about stillbirth that lead an all-star cast. I felt nervous. This was not something I ever envisioned myself experiencing. I expected to see this film alone in the comfort of my own home, late at night in my tracksuit pants, with multiple boxes of tissues and a bucket-load of ice cream. Thankfully I thought ahead and wore waterproof mascara. This event was everything you would expect to see at a red carpet premiere. Lights, cameras, photographers and Hollywood Stars.
It was time to make our way into the theater. Cindy Crawford (yes, you read that right) introduced the film and spoke about her friend, Sean Hanish (the film Director/Writer) and the day he left her house after receiving a call from his wife to say that their baby boy had died in the womb at 35 weeks. It was the day Sean and Kiley’s world fell apart. Cindy welcomed Sean to the stage and he gave thanks to all who made the film possible. Before I knew it, the curtains of the screen began to open and the lights dimmed to darkness. My heart pounded hard. I wasn’t ready to watch this film. I had not brought enough tissues with me.
And so it began. After the first couple of scenes I felt my anxiety fall away. My body relaxed and something I never expected to happen occurred. I was laughing – out loud. The writing of this film is utter brilliance. You immediately fall in love with the two main characters Maggie and Aaron Royal, played by the wonderful Minnie Driver and the gorgeous (well he is!) Paul Adelstein. What I loved about the film was its rawness. It is so true, messy, beautiful, hilarious, honest, devastating, and hopeful. I laughed, nodded along and cried. The film just ticked all the boxes of the grief experience for me. I wondered if Sean had made a list of circumstances that we all go through and made sure that he incorporated them into the film. This film for me, was an accurate account of what it is like to experience the death of your baby. As I watched, I just kept thinking, yes, yes, YES! Minnie’s fearless and flawless performance took my breath away. I just can’t believe she has never experienced the loss of a baby before. Her emotions were so real and I just wanted to jump into the screen and wrap my arms around her and tell her how thankful I was for what she has done for so many people around the world. I am a complete outsider when it comes to the TV industry but I believe that Minnie deserves an award for her performance in this film – multiple awards, an Emmy, a Golden Globe, whatever. Just give them to her.
The film’s score by James T. Sale is beautifully haunting and his music has stayed in my mind ever since I watched the film. The song that Minnie and Paul wrote titled ‘Forget The Fall’ is a beautiful and inspiring tribute to all the families who have experienced the death of their beloved children. When their song is played over the baby names at the end of the film it creates a moment which is profound and resonant–what an awe-inspiring dedication to the journey we have all been on, and our love for the children we have lost.
What surprised me the most about this film is that I always knew I would love it, but I never would have imagined that I would actually really enjoy watching it. I was doubled over in laughter as often as I was awash in tears. I walked out of that cinema feeling as though my own grief journey had been validated and that I was truly not alone. I felt proud to be a part of this community. I am a survivor! We have all survived the most unimaginable heartache. This is a film that every newly bereaved parent will want their friends and family to watch. It is an honest glimpse into the aftermath of losing a baby and what it is like to go through such a heartache.
My hope is that with this film, our greater society will be educated and will be given a deeper understanding on what it is like to experience the death of a baby and that they will realize that we do not need to be fixed. You cannot fix us. Grief is a human and very natural experience that cannot be rushed and we will heal in our own time. This film will hopefully inspire people to choose empathy over sympathy.
If you have not yet seen it, you can watch the film trailer here. If you are in the US or Canada you can tune in for the world premiere of RETURN TO ZERO Saturday, May 17th at 8pm/7pm central on Lifetime or if you are in the UK you can watch the film at 7pm Sunday, May 18th on Lifetime UK. For those of you around the world who do not get Lifetime the DVD will be on sale June 17th! And it will be packed with extras.
On Saturday evening, an hour before the film goes to air in the USA, Healing Conversations will be hosting a live countdown Google Hangout that will feature some special guests including Sean and Kiley Hanish. After the film there will be a discussion forum to specifically address the feelings that the film brings up for us all as well as the RTZ Discussion Guide. You can find out the exact times here. You can also subscribe to the youtube channel for future conversations.
Watch this film, feel it’s power and know that you were there when the silence was broken.