Return To Me

"Very Good"

Return To Me Review


Taken out of context, the plot of "Return To Me" sounds like a really cheesy gimmick for a movie romance.

David Duchovny plays a man whose beautiful, adoring wife (Joley Richardson) dies in a car crash. Minnie Driver is a heart patient who gets the dead woman's ticker in a transplant. After a respectable amount of time has passed for the purposes of good taste, they meet by chance and fall in love.

Your eyes are rolling, right? But surprise, surprise -- the whole magical-innards angle is merely a jumping off point for a sincere and very funny love story that is easily the best romantic dramedy since "Jerry Maguire."

Intelligently co-written and ably directed by Bonnie Hunt -- who played Renee Zellweger's sardonic sister in "Maguire" and co-stars in much the same role here -- "Return To Me" never employs its concept as a crutch. It doesn't have to. Hunt's script long-time collaborator Don Lake) has wit, polish and a sublimely humanity that draws affecting performances from a very classy cast.

Completely absent of any Mulder-isms, Duchovny is an ideal forlorn romantic -- charming and clearly devoted to his beautiful wife, a dedicated zoologist teaching sign language to a gorilla at a Chicago zoo.

Dancing together a fund-raiser for a new primate habitat, they make an instantly endearing couple with the unmistakable laughs, whispers and glances of two people deeply in love. In a boy-meets-girl movie, this could scene could be the happy ending.

Then, with the dance music still lingering on the soundtrack, director Hunt gently transitions into powerfully saddening shot of Duchovny running through a hospital alongside a his wife's gurney being sped to emergency surgery, his tuxedo bloodied and his eyes filled with dread. Soon he's at home, despondent and alone, but seemingly holding his heartbreak in check until their dog parks himself at the front door anticipating Richardson's return with tail wagging. Duchovny collapses on the floor in a wrenching breakdown of undiluted anguish. This one take has more pathos than he's showed in seven seasons of "The X-Files" all run together.

Meanwhile, a pale and ailing Driver lies in another hospital acclimating herself to her encroaching mortality and laughing weakly with wise-cracking sibling Hunt when word comes that a heart has been found for her transplant.

These early scenes -- a thoughtfully-balanced mix of sorrow and hope -- hint at Hunt's refreshingly uncontrived methods as a director. This is a movie packed with powerful feelings and surprisingly sharp wit, but unlike a distressing majority of her contemporaries, she knows better than to push the river. It flows by itself and she puts trust in her actors to embody the depth of their characters' emotions.

When the story resumes a year later, Duchovny -- owner of a construction company -- is building the zoo's new habitat in memory of his wife. Sullen and mopey, his stylish home has become a cave littered with the remnants of routine Chinese takeout meals. His dog still waits patiently at the door each day, too -- a constant reminder of his dead wife.

Driver has recovered completely except for having developed a fear of romance since discovering men tend to turn tail and run when she reveals the scar that runs the length of her chest.

Working in her Irish family's Italian restaurant (!), she meets Duchovny when she waits on him during a nightmare of a blind date, forced on him by well-meaning friends. Chemistry and inexplicable recognition ensue.

Hunt's hands-off style makes for a surprisingly subtle and understated love story, while she peppers the film with marvelous touches of incidental comedy, most of it from a stellar supporting cast of Driver's busybody relatives. Carroll O'Connor stands out as her doting granddad, who owns the restaurant and plays nightly games of poker with a handful of jocose retirees, including Robert Loggia, her crabby uncle. Hunt and Jim Belushi play off each other beautifully as facetiously bickering marrieds with a slew of kids.

Of course the gorilla and the dog are destined take to Driver, but such sentimental touches are handled with admirable reserve that speaks to Hunt's faith in the audience. Even the inevitable moment when Driver, then Duchovny, discovers the root of their spell-like connection is approached with remarkable subtlety. Where the vast majority of Hollywood directors would milk such a dramatic moment for every iota of shock and forced grief, Hunt just lets it unfold naturally.

Both deeply moving and cheerfully obliging, "Return to Me" is above the kind of trite heartstring manipulation a story like this invites, and without that burden it blossoms into a sublime audience-pleaser that leaves one misty and smiling ear-to-ear.



Return To Me

Facts and Figures

Run time: 115 mins

In Theaters: Friday 7th April 2000

Distributed by: MGM Distribution

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 61%
Fresh: 60 Rotten: 38

IMDB: 6.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Bob Rueland, as Grace Briggs, Carroll O'Connor as Marty O'Reilly, as Angelo Pardipillo, James Belushi as Joe Dayton, as Megan Dayton

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

On the Road Movie Review

On the Road Movie Review

Wolf Alice fans are likely to be rather disappointed by this hybrid documentary-drama about the...

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Skilfully made by Swedish filmmaker Janus Metz (the award-winning Armadillo), this film is essentially a...

Advertisement
The Glass Castle Movie Review

The Glass Castle Movie Review

There are quite a few terrific moments in this true story, based on the memoir...

Home Again Movie Review

Home Again Movie Review

Reese Witherspoon is so likeable that she can carry even the most hackneyed of romantic...

Brimstone Movie Review

Brimstone Movie Review

An unnerving Western with a sharp female perspective, this film is a series of gruesome...

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Two years ago, Kingsman: The Secret Service seemed to come out of nowhere, ruffling feathers...

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

This biopic about Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne may look like the usual lushly...

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.