Review: Return to Zero

Streaming right now on Netflix is the Minnie Driver-led “Return to Zero.” The 2014 film is a brutal, honest and emotional look at one couple’s (Maggie and Aaron) experience after the stillbirth of their son, Arthur. It’s an independent, low-budget movie that also stars Paul Adelstein, Alfred Molina and Kathy Baker.

Watch the trailer here:

I’ve been wanting to watch this for a while after hearing about it in some of the “angel mommy” discussion boards. But, I just haven’t been able to bring myself to watch it as I knew it would be emotionally draining. I didn’t feel comfortable watching it with Brett at home so I finished it last Friday since it was cool, gloomy and rainy on a “summer” day. It took 17 Kleenex to get me through. (That’s on-par with “The Notebook” for me for those wondering.)

The realism of the film comes through in extreme moments of anger and grief, and the differences between how a husband and wife both cope after loss. It’s heart-wrenching and could’ve been our own story unfolding on-screen. I could easily relate to scenes dealing with:

  • The awkwardness of interactions with friends
  • Being invited to a friend’s baby shower and/or seeing a friend with a new baby
  • Entering a hospital to give birth and knowing you’re not going to leave with your baby.
  • The returning of presents that were for your baby that will never be used.
  • All the moments, all the things you hoped for. Just gone.
  • The fear of getting pregnant again and getting close to another child, like you’ll sever your one last connection to the child you lost.

I nearly was convulsing in tears when Aaron says to Maggie at one point: “You were gone and I don’t know how to get you back.” Something nearly verbatim that I’ve heard Brett say to me as I was deeply consumed in grief, fear and anxiety.

Thankfully, there are the light-hearted moments of the film that make it easier to digest and break up the overarching severity and intensity of the material. For instance, the couple jokes about some awful home-cooked meal (it looked like prison food on a really bad day) that friends provided for them or another occasion when Aaron gives neighborhood kids aquarium tank filler for Halloween treats.

But, even in those more flippant moments, you remember the line that you straddle as a parent of loss. The difficulty you have enjoying life as you once did. Finding joy in the simple things because your heart is constantly being tugged on by an invisible force.

I’m deeply grateful for this film and hope others who haven’t experienced a loss will watch it. It sheds light on such a truth that many people will just never understand about the “new normal” after losing a child. It answers the questions that sometimes I just don’t have the energy to respond to from friends and family for how I’m feeling and what it was like in the early days shortly after losing Emmett.

“You’ll always be Arthur’s mother. And he will always be proud of that,” said Claire, a caring perinatologist that cares for Maggie.

“Return to Zero” is the true story of Dr. Kiley Krekorian Hanish and her husband Sean, based on the stillbirth of their son. They created the film and it’s accompanying website to educate parents about loss and resources for grief and coping.

The beautiful and powerful song “Forget to Fall,” sung by Driver is also featured on the film’s soundtrack:

Learn more at


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