Sebastian (Markus Krojer) is an 11-year-old living in a small Bavarian village with his father and brother. A bit of a troublemaker, Sebastian is constantly being scolded by his family, although his actions are always innocent. When he accidentally kills some of his families rabbits, his brother tells him that he’s the reason their mother passed away, after she died during childbirth. Now worried that he’ll be left in Purgatory when he dies for these sins, Sebastian decides he’s got to find a way to become immortal.
Comedy is one of those things that doesn’t always translate very well. Each place in the world has their own idea of what is funny, and while Grave Decisions certainly has some moments that are darkly humorous, much of it doesn’t land with the same laugh that it may get in its home country. The film is actually a little too serious for its own good, and something like this would have wound up with a more slapstick feel had it been created in North America.
The serious tone actually works quite well at times, when it isn’t colliding with the more ridiculous moments like an old woman taking a ride down a hill in her bed. Sebastian’s fear of Purgatory, pain at the loss of his mother, and his innocent views on the world around him, give the character plenty of moments that we can relate to. The fact that his intentions in every crazy idea he has are positive is one aspect of where the comedy can work. How can you hate a child who is simply trying their best to make things right in the world around them?
Krojer is wonderful in the role of Sebastian, who is placed in all kinds of outlandish situations. A recurring nightmare of a hellish trial that he continues to be put on gives the film a fantastical element that could only exist in the mind of a child, and watching Sebastian get himself caught up in ideas that are obviously bad never gets old. It’s not perfect, but Grave Decisions is an entertaining trip through the mind of a child.