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'Sorry for Your Loss' review: Facebook Watch series is sensitive, nuanced and particularly well-acted

Elizabeth Olsen stars in "Sorry for Your Loss"

Elizabeth Olsen stars in "Sorry for Your Loss" on Facebook Watch. Photo Credit: Facebook Watch

THE SERIES "Sorry for Your Loss"

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Tuesday on Facebook Watch

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Leigh Shaw (Elizabeth Olsen) is recently widowed, struggling through her grief and memories of her husband, Matt (Mamoudou Athi). Her sister, Jules (Kelly Marie Tran), and mother, Amy (Janet McTeer), are grieving too, but have moved on. Leigh, not so much: She goes to grief counseling group sessions and reconnects with Matt's brother, Danny (Jovan Adepo), with whom she had a strained relationship.

To see this 10-parter (the first four episodes were made available for review), created and written by playwright Kit Steinkellner, go to Facebook, and click on "Watch" to the left of the homescreen.

MY SAY Along with the pall of grief that fills "Loss" like a sigh, there's a pervasive mystery: How did Leigh's husband, Matt, die? It's a mystery to viewers only because the characters certainly know, but never say. Instead, Matt is carefully reconstructed in flashback. He's a mystery, but over four episodes a picture begins to emerge. He was an aspiring comic book artist, for example. He and his brother had secrets that only the two shared. He loved dogs, or one in particular. Matt was warm, kind and gentle. But how, exactly, did he die?

The withholding of key information is a plot device that's used in plays and TV series all the time, but it's especially effective here because it determines how you'll engage with Leigh. She too is something of a cipher — a little imperious, controlling, judgmental. Unlike Matt, she's not particularly lovable, partly because she doesn't want to be loved. She keeps everyone at arm's length, or further. As she dismisses one needy aspirant to her affections,"You are Jackie O and I am Courtney Love, and Jackie O and Courtney Love are not friends, not in any universe."

And so the other mystery then becomes, who is Leigh? You already know Matt's death profoundly affected her, but it also forced her to come to terms with herself. Her grief, in other words, is shaded by guilt and some other complicated emotion that doesn't even have a word, at least that she knows of. 

All of this is a long way of getting around to what should be the most salient point about "Sorry for Your Loss:" This is a deeply felt, intelligent and nuanced story that hardly amounts to a story at all. Almost nothing happens in "Loss," which makes any plot point feel momentous or consequential. The surprise, or irony, is that two of its stars are best known for the biggest, brassiest entertainments on the planet — the "Avengers" franchise (Olsen) and "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" (Tran). McTeer — one of the greats of the British and New York stages — got her close-up in the Marvel universe, too, in "Jessica Jones."      

But each is excellent here, and together may have just handed Facebook Watch its first genuine breakout.

BOTTOM LINE A sensitive, nuanced and particularly well-acted dirge.  

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