Don, a recently widowed retiree, is still in the midst of a debilitating grief when he gets an unexpected delivery. It’s a hot tub that his deceased wife Genevieve ordered before she passed away. He refuses the delivery, unable to deal with the reminder of his loss.
The deliverymen don’t know what to do, especially since Mike seems to be in a daze. Taking it back is a logistical nightmare, so they decide to install it anyway. When head deliveryman Ivan realizes Mike’s wife is dead, the crew take time to hang out with Mike, giving him a moment of grace in a difficult time.
The heart of Australian writer-director Will Goodfellow’s touching dramedy is undeniably full of sorrow and grief. Don is immobilized by his sadness, and he is a small, isolated center that the rest of the characters weave around as they try to get on with his work, at first oblivious to his feelings and situation. They brush off his strangely subdued behavior as an oddity and go about their jobs, making jokes and talking about their upcoming sports matches on the television.
The ensemble of performances is excellent all-around, highlighting the discrepancy between those who are grieving and those who are not. The film has a gently ironic sense of observation and humor, pointing both toward how the deep, intense rawness of grief can isolate those experiencing it and how our daily obligations and needs can cause us to go into autopilot, unaware of what’s in front of us.
The juxtaposition is also emphasized through sensitively directed camerawork and editing, which observes one set of characters’ brisk, businesslike rhythm buzz around Don’s isolation. The pace takes an an occasional beat to watch the deliverymen puzzle at their client’s oddness, and as they become aware of the reasons behind Don’s behavior, it’s remarkable to see them become present to Don’s reality and gently re-align themselves to make room for his emotions.
The resulting choice makes “The Spa” a small yet graceful narrative about everyday compassion and emotional intelligence. What’s remarkable is that the deliverymen’s generosity and kindness doesn’t make Don’s grief disappear. Instead, by giving him their simple warm presence and acceptance, they give Don a safe space to acknowledge how much he loves and misses his wife. By the time we reach the end of this remarkably tenderhearted film, Don has moved forward — even just a bit — in the company of his new companions, and viewers will come away with a renewed sense of how people can extend kindness towards one another in the simplest, most elemental ways.