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Movie Review

Bob and Elizabeth are in love. Deeply in love. Blissfully married, the happy couple has carved out the perfect life in the great city of Chicago. Great jobs. Big house. Adoring dog. Then a fatal car accident ends all that in mere seconds. Bob survives. Elizabeth does not. Let’s back up for a second. A young woman named Grace lies in a hospital bed waiting for a heart transplant. Without it, she’ll die. So one fateful day ends Elizabeth’s life, devastates Bob’s and restores Grace’s, for it’s Elizabeth’s heart that is transplanted into Grace’s body. Flash forward just over a year. Bob is making it the best he can without his beloved wife. Grace is just beginning to discover her new life. Then the two meet. You get the picture.

Rooted in offbeat Chicago-style Italian, Irish and Polish traditions, this tender romantic dramedy watches patiently as Bob and Grace discover each other, new love and a fresh lease on life. What makes Bob and Grace’s onscreen romance unique, however, is the film’s inclusion of Grace’s extended family and friends (her "community"). Bob falls in love with them right along with Grace. And that’s the most touching thing about this film.

Positive Elements: Grace lives within a close circle of caring friends and family. Her grandfather looks after her and lovingly protects (at times, overprotects) her. She always has someone to go to when she needs to talk. Bob finds that same love and affection transferred to him as he spends more and more time with Grace. Better than that, though, is the fact that in this film, marriage is honored. Before Elizabeth dies, her nuptial relationship with Bob is portrayed in an enthusiastic and admiring light.

Spiritual Content: A pervasive Catholic tradition threads through most of the movie. Several characters pray (one beseeches Saint Michael to intercede for him) and light candles. One man jokes about getting to see all his friends in purgatory.

Sexual Content: No sex whatsoever. Not even implied. Bob and Grace never consummate their relationship. It should be noted, however, that the biggest reason for their sexual inactivity is Grace’s self-consciousness about the surgical scar between her breasts, not a commitment to abstinence. Unfortunately, several jokes about sex slip through the cracks as do various innuendoes. For instance, Megan advises Grace not to shave her legs before her first date, telling her that hairy legs are the only sure-fire way to avoid sex.

Violent Content: Virtually none. Panicked that Bob might discover her scar, and thus discover that she has had a heart transplant, Grace slaps Bob. And while the car crash is not shown, the intensity of the moment in conveyed through lingering shots of the bewildered and bloodstained Bob.

Crude or Profane Language: In a film free of so many other common caveats, it is distressing that so much foul language was planted in the script. The s-word pops out at least five times, and Joe spouts numerous profanities in front of his young children. They, of course, parrot the words right back. Jesus’ name is abused.

Drug and Alcohol Content: Grace’s grandfather and his three elderly buddies sit around on numerous occasions playing cards, drinking beer and smoking cigars. Bob and Grace drink wine.

Summary: At times whimsical, at times heart wrenching, at times routine, Return to Me has two major flaws. One falls in the content arena (profanity); the other is about style. It seems that in an effort to avoid accusations of pandering to the saccharine sappiness inherent in many "date" films, Hunt may have retreated too far. Several would-be poignant scenes are either minimized and glossed over, or washed out and drab. This creates an uneven flow since much of the rest of the movie unabashedly grabs for heartstrings. The X-Files star David Duchovny doesn’t help. While it’s a lot of fun watching him interact with "the guys," his portrayal of Bob’s passion and adoration for Grace is somewhat second-rate. What’s amazing is that even despite stylistic "errors," the movie really reaches out and connects. You end up really caring about Bob and Grace and their future. You grieve for Elizabeth. You laugh. You cry. All told, Return to Me makes much more sense as a TV movie than it does as a big screen spectacle. Besides, all the needless profanity may well get whittled down when this film debuts on network television.


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