Linda Hanson's days as a housewife are full of the routine stuff of motherhood: taking her girls to elementary school, doing laundry, jogging in the afternoons. But that predictable rhythm is shattered the day a policeman informs Linda that her husband, Jim, has been killed in an automobile accident. Numb with grief, the new widow's day concludes as she slips uneasily to sleep, alone in her bed ...
... where she awakens the following morning next to her very-much-alive husband. Confused and disoriented, Linda concludes the news of her husband's death must have been a horrible nightmare.
Or was it? Subsequent mornings expose a randomly revealed reality. Jim is either dead or alive depending on the day. Desperate to piece everything together, Linda begins leaving notes on a hidden calendar (which, remarkably and inexplicably, stays put) to figure out exactly what happened—or will happen—the week of her husband's death. As this nonlinear, Memento-like narrative moves both backward and forward in time, Linda realizes that her horrible, time-zapping premonitions have given her a precious chance to save not only her husband's life but their deteriorating marriage as well.
Premonition begins with a flashback showing Linda and Jim deeply in love early in their marriage. Fast-forward, however, and their connection isn't what it once was. They barely talk. Physical intimacy is a thing of the past ("We're roommates with two girls"). Linda takes little apparent joy in serving her family, and Jim has succumbed to workaholism, though they both make occasional efforts at expressing love to their girls. In short, it's a family coexisting.
As Linda zips back and forth through time (what's real and what's a part of her "premonition" is difficult to sort out), she discovers her husband is on the brink of consummating an affair with a co-worker named Claire. Simultaneously, Linda learns she may be able to divert her husband's fatal accident—and she has to decide whether or not to save him. Linda ponders if letting him die instead of intervening is the same as murder; she also wonders if his death would be a just punishment for his budding affair.
[Spoiler Warning] Pondering something doesn't make it positive, of course. But Linda's deep thoughts lead to her choosing to reengage wholeheartedly with her husband and her daughters even as she seeks to circumvent Jim's tragic appointment with destiny. It's implied that she forgives him, and her love in turn prompts Jim to call off the affair. This tangled plotline ultimately yields a powerful message about love, hope, perseverance, forgiveness and serving one's family.
In part, Linda's choice grows out of a visit with her Catholic priest at her moment of moral crisis. (We know she's been to church before because the priest recognizes her and comments that he hasn't seen her in a long time.) Linda has discovered her husband's emotional infidelity, but she can't quite rationalize letting him die. So she tells the priest, "Father, something bad is going to happen. ... I need your help, I need your direction, I need faith." He responds, "Faith is just believing in something beyond yourself—something you can't feel or smell or touch, like hope or love." This vague explanation obviously doesn't mention the objects of Christian faith—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit—but it's enough to snap Linda out of her self-centered temptation to passively take mortal revenge against her husband. And when Linda implies that it's too late for hope and love in their relationship, the priest exhorts her that it's never too late to fight for the things that matter most.
Elsewhere in his conversation with Linda, he mentions other cases where people have had horrible premonitions. He warns her that those who've lost faith are vulnerable to being taken over by other unnamed forces, but never explicitly says what they are. At Jim's funeral, a priest leads mourners in the Lord's prayer.
Because she's often shown either going to bed or getting out of bed, about half-a-dozen scenes picture Linda in various nightclothes, including several sheer nighties, camisoles and one of her husband's shirts. Twice we see her shoulders and back in the shower. Another shower shot shows Jim's chest as Linda (who's clothed) gets in the shower with him and hugs him. After a tender kiss (in another scene), it's implied that the pair has had sex. (The very top of one of Linda's breasts is exposed as they lie in bed together.)
Claire wears a cleavage-revealing shirt; we also see her in bed (awaiting her first unfulfilled tryst with Jim) wearing a negligee.
Linda insists on seeing her husband's decapitated, disfigured corpse; the casket gets dropped, and we catch a glimpse of his head falling out (just enough to imply what's happened). Linda hits her psychiatrist as he tries to restrain her. In a psyche ward, a doctor sedates her and we witness the needle going into her arm. One of Linda's daughters runs through a glass patio door. Her face and arms are cut badly (we see quite a bit of blood), and she has to have stitches in several spots on her face.
In an unsettling scene, Linda trips in the backyard, and her hand lands on a dead blackbird. She gets quite a bit of the bird's blood on her hands, then carries it to the trash. Later, we see the bird's death as it's struck by lightning.
[Spoiler Warning] A semi jackknifes and collides with Jim's car, then explodes. It's implied that the truck's driver is also killed. It's a gut-wrenching end to a story that appeared to be on its way to a happier ending.
Crude or Profane Language
Characters use the f-word once, the s-word a half-dozen times and "d--mit" two or three times. God's name is taken in vain a handful of times (including one "g--d--n"), and Jesus' name is misused once.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Even though she's a jogger, Linda smokes, and two scenes picture her with a smoldering cigarette in her hand. Jim drinks a beer at the family dinner in one scene, and brings a beer bottle to the kitchen in another.
Linda goes to a psychiatrist who prescribes Lithium for her. She considers taking the pills but then dumps them down the sink. In another scene, she wakes up next to a wine glass and a wine bottle on the bedside table, implying she'd used alcohol to help her get to sleep.
Other Negative Elements
Many psychological thrillers mess with moviegoers' heads simply for the sake of unraveling an inscrutable plot. Premonition accomplishes that feat. And it even throws in several eerie scenes involve squawking crows, dark skies and thunderstorms to enhance the foreboding atmosphere. Unlike most films in this genre, however, it also delivers some surprisingly positive messages about family and faithfulness.
[Spoiler Warning] About halfway through its convoluted story, I thought, Why did Sandra Bullock choose to make this strange movie? The answer, I suspect, comes in the last half-hour or so, after Linda decides that her marriage and her husband are worth saving, even though he's hovering on the brink of an affair. Linda's recommitment to Jim (and to their girls) gives Premonition's conclusion real emotional resonance. Ultimately, the point of the film is not about dark premonitions, but about what it means to keep faith with our families.
On the other hand, an emphasis on faith "in something beyond yourself" needs more specificity—a focus on God's saving work in Jesus Christ—for such counsel to be of any help. Instead, the film implicitly endorses faith in faith itself. Linda places her faith in the idea that her marriage can be saved, but we never see her actively depending on God for the strength to accomplish that task. From a spiritual point of view, then, Premonition isn't very good at seeing around the next bend.
And on a more concrete level, problematic content further blurs its vision. A more-restrained PG rating would have made this movie's positive points more accessible to a broader audience (families); but it seems the edgier horror-movie crowd was deemed more important.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Sandra Bullock as Linda Hanson; Julian McMahon as Jim Hanson; Courtney Taylor Burness as Bridgette Hanson; Shyann McClure as Megan Hason; Kate Nelligan as Joanne; Nia Long as Annie; Amber Valletta as Claire; Peter Stormare as Dr. Norman Roth
Mennan Yapo ( )