In 2004, Michel Gondry and Jim Carrey made one of the most searingly accurate depictions of lost love ever committed to celluloid. Despite its inherent surrealism and futuristic overtones, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind captured post-relationship agony in an incredibly recognizable and relatable way. Now Gondry and Carrey are collaborating again for new Showtime series, Kidding (created by Dave Holstein), and they're tackling grief in the same complex and intimate way.
Typically, on-screen explorations of grief are inaccurate, incomplete or both. It's not for lack of trying, it's just that grief is so complicated and differs so wildly per the individual, it's almost impossible to capture. On television, death occurs frequently, but grief is mostly a fleeting plot point (though This is Us offers a rare exception to that rule). In movies, what we mostly get are romanticized depictions (P.S. I Love You), sentimental explorations (Collateral Beauty), or examinations of the immediate aftermath from a single perspective (Rabbit Hole).
Kidding, though, feels different and revelatory. Based on the first few episodes alone, the show appears to be unlocking the core components of grief and trying to piece them together in the same jumbled way people are forced to when they're living with sudden and overwhelming loss. Jim Carrey's character, Jeff Pickles, is a PBS superstar in the same vein as Mr. Rogers, whose son was killed in a car accident one year prior. His wife Jill (Judy Greer) has left Jeff and started a new romance. Their son Will (Cole Allen) is responding to the death of his twin brother by acting out in every way imaginable.
Utilizing the vastly different perspectives of Jeff, Jill and Will allows Kidding to explore the nuances of deep mourning. As so many people are startled to find out in real life, there are no straight-forward seven stages of grief here, and it's refreshing to see a TV show tackling that so unflinchingly. Jeff and Jill's separation also touches on a common real-life problem—up to a third of couples report marriage problems resulting from the loss of a child, and the first six months after are when most grief-related divorces occur.