Though the title should give it away, Sorry for Your Loss is an intense, emotionally raw meditation on grief. And yet, it’s never overwhelming as much as engrossing. Facebook Watch debuted the first four (out of 10) episodes this week, with two to follow on each subsequent Tuesday. And while its location was initially a turnoff for me (there are too many platforms with too much content, who has the time?), Sorry for Your Loss is truly Facebook Watch’s entry into compelling television.
First, a few things about Facebook Watch for other fogeys like me: Unlike YouTube’s premium service, it’s free (at least for now). You can find this show by typing its title into the search bar at the top of your Facebook homepage. If you have a Chromecast or are otherwise connected in that way, you can send it to your TV; otherwise you can just watch it on the page. Like Netflix and other streaming sites, it will cycle through to the next episode unless you stop it first, but with this one (with its half-hour episodes), you’ll probably want to keep going. Unlike Netflix or other streaming sites, it also tells you how many other people have watched each episode, and lets you engage with a community about it right there.
Now, onto the actual show: Sorry for Your Loss stars Elizabeth Olsen as a grieving young widow, Leigh, whose husband Matt (Mamoudou Athie) died three months ago. Avoiding the apartment where they lived, she’s moved back in with her mother Amy (Janet McTeer) and her sister Jules (Kelly Marie Tran), both of whom she also works with at a fitness studio called Beautiful Beast. As Leigh goes through the motions of teaching classes and going to group therapy, she’s constantly reminded of her life with Matt, as she tries to figure out how to live without him. And yet, Sorry for Your Loss plays with a beautiful balance that never allows the story to get too dark or mired in sadness. Life is happening to and around Leigh as she processes everything, and Olsen adds the slightest bit of wry humor to her performance that is both necessary and appreciated.
The series comes from Kit Steinkellner (Z: The Beginning of Everything); James Ponsoldt directs the first two episodes, followed by Jessica Yu and Allison Anders, all of whom imbue the series with an indie-film aesthetic that includes natural light, a minimal score, and an emphasis on true, relatable interactions. Leigh isn’t always easy to like — she’s sharp, dry, sarcastic, and overwhelmed by her sadness — but crucially, she’s easy to care about. As the episodes continue, the dynamic among the three women in the house becomes clearer, with Jules as the recovering alcoholic working hard to reestablish trust with her mother and sister, and Amy as the hippy-earth-mother who is also trying to succeed as a businesswoman. All of these actresses are outstanding, and like Olsen, give both the depth and the necessary lightness to such a difficult piece. It’s at this point, around the show’s third episode, that Leigh’s grief stops being the focal point, and instead, things settle into more of family drama — but one that Matt is still deeply a part of.
One of the best things Sorry for Your Loss does is keep Matt an active part of the story through Leigh’s flashbacks, creating a three-dimensional character who isn’t just a saint or a mystery. As part of that, the person who challenges Leigh the most during this time is Matt’s brother Danny (Jovan Adepo), who irritates her, but who is also the only other person who can start to understand the depth of her loss — and how much others irritate then with their attempts at condolences. Through him, she also starts to realize that there are many things about Matt that she didn’t know, including the password to his phone, which reveals a host of missed calls and messages that (at the end of the fourth episode), she seems ready to explore. But Leigh is challenged in other ways, even by strangers, like another young widow in her therapy group who Leigh dismissively calls the Jackie O. to her Courtney Love. But those interactions open up a new honesty for both women that manages to make what could be a cliche reveal feel particularly deep thanks to the strength of the overall production.
Just when things seem to be taking a turn for the happier in the fourth episode, there’s another unexpected emotional turn that will make you cry. It won’t be the first, and surely not the last, time that you do so. But unlike certain emotionally manipulative series that thrive on being sad-core, Sorry for You Loss plays out a lot like grief itself — it’s meandering, unexpected, complicated, dark, occasionally funny, and puts everything around it into sharp relief. It’s not what you would expect on Facebook, but it is definitely worth seeking out.
Sorry for Your Loss is now playing on Facebook Watch.