Ahem. As a public, and somewhat tongue-in-cheek, service for the widowed, I now give you...
The Tombstone Rating System for the Recently Bereaved* :
*Dan came up with the name
Five Tombstones: Really. Unless you are concerned you've become completely cold and unfeeling, and therefore need to test if you still have a heart to break, skip this movie. It is loaded with just too much.
Four tombstones: Some difficult and poignant scenes, death is a major theme, and you wouldn't know that from watching the previews; see it if you are feeling strong and stable, or at a weekday matinee where you can sob freely.
Three tombstones: While death may not be the whole idea, there are some scenes that are, or could be, quite difficult, depending on your personal experience. You could fast forward through them, but you might miss some key storylines. A Three Tombstone rating is sort of a gray area - could be fine, could knock you over the edge.
Two tombstones: there's death, or dying, but it's either over quickly, or it happens to a minor character and no one cries. Reasonably safe. (see my previous review of the King's Speech)
One tombstone: the movie is free from all overt death imagery. Not saying you won't find a trigger in the movie somewhere, but no one actually dies, and no one nearly dies.
I'm only posting movie warnings for those movies that you wouldn't expect to have random death in them, and yet - they do. If you want to purposely watch movies loaded with poignancy, by all means - rent, um, I don't know - I don't watch those movies anymore. I know enough to not do that to myself. It's these movies that aren't supposed to be all deathy that really get me. There are enough grief landmines in this world without getting hit by one when you are trying to be entertained. I'll try not to give too much of the story away while still giving you a decent heads-up, if you'd like one.
My three most recent movies:
MegaMind. I figured animated super-hero movies would be safe. No. There is accidental/on-purpose death, with accompanying long, sad "goodbyes I didn't get to say." Tombstone rating? A three, because while it's animated and rather goofy, the sheer annoyance I felt at the unexpected Long Sad Goodbyes spoken to a photograph, plus another element I won't reveal, boosted it up from a two.
Coco Before Chanel. I liked this movie. 3/4 of this movie. Just about the time things were getting good for our young Coco, I said outloud, "Oh. He's going to die. Next scene. Just watch." Sure enough. Accidental death. It was not over-done, nor overly dramatic. Again, I was more irritated than anything else. You can fast forward through a couple of minutes, but by then, the emotional damage is done. Thankfully, most of the movie is over by then. I give it a One tombstone for the first 3/4, a Three tombstone rating once the obvious next developments become obvious.
Kings of Pastry. Woo Hoo!!! A movie with absolutely no death in it whatsoever! For that, it gets the One Tombstone rating, which means that while no one dies, I'm still not going to guarantee is won't break your heart or set off a chain of memories. It just isn't going to do that overtly, on purpose, or by design. For a movie about spun sugar and cream puffs, it was surprisingly stressful, but kind of in a good way. The no-unexpected-deaths kind of way.
See, people who make movies? Death is not a requirement for decent cinema.
Tombstone Rating System copywright megan devine and dan cano, 2011.