In a world of these large-scope adult problems, it’s easy to forget that children occupy that same world. Every challenge and anxiety that adults stare down, children feel that impact but without the foundation of experience to get through it. AN ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM acknowledges this gap and allows the viewer to be reminded of the resilience of children. Incredibly moving, funny, and heartbreaking, AN ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM is a documentary that is sure to tug heartstrings.

AN ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM reveals the unique stories of children participating in the Good Grief community program. These children come from all walks of life but share one tragic thing in common… they have all experienced the death of a parent. Good Grief offers a holistic approach to dealing with grief, encouraging children to openly discuss their feelings, give in to rage when necessary, and cry when they need to cry.

The documentary takes place over the course of a year, following the weekly meetings and progress of multiple children. Director Katrine Philp paints a devastatingly human picture of the experiences of these children in such a moving way. The film had been set to enjoy its World Premiere at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival in Austin, TX.  

A concept as massive as death and loss are difficult for an experienced adult mind to wrap around. How do you break down such huge emotions for little minds? AN ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM walks alongside the process of each of these young children as they seek to understand death and mourning. As adults, we can take for granted how development and experience help us process difficult emotions. These kids don’t have that. These children must first learn to understand how deep these feelings go, how to completely and healthfully address those feelings, and how to move forward in healing. 

At times, AN ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM is incredibly difficult to watch. It’s painful to watch these children grapple with pain, but equally touching to see that pure expression of the self. The work shown with the young boys, in particular, is an uplifting tonic. As part of Good Grief’s holistic healing approach, these little boys are being taught the importance of empathy. They are encouraged to rage and to cry and to be honestly in-tune with their feelings. It’s a lesson that any of us can relate to and benefit from. 

It’s equally interesting and humorous to see how children interpret the actions of the adults in their lives. Over and over again, the young subjects of AN ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM revealed an emotional intelligence and understanding well beyond their years. One of the elements of AN ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM that makes it such a successful documentary is how it captures the immense wisdom of these children. Their souls seem like they’ve aged a hundred years, as they process loss, and yet they are still smiling and represent all the best of childhood. The final product is incredibly moving.

AN ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM is one of those deeply human stories, told to perfection. It’s delicate but impactful. Equal parts sobering and a tonic, it comes with a warm recommendation.

Caitlin Kennedy
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