Main cast: David Duchovny (Bob Rueland), Minnie Driver (Grace Briggs), Carroll O’Connor (Marty O’Reilly), Bonnie Hunt (Megan Dayton), David Alan Grier (Charlie Johnson), Robert Loggia (Angelo Pardipillo), Joely Richardson (Elizabeth Rueland), Eddie Jones (Emmett McFadden), William Bronder (Wally Jatczak), Marianne Muellerleile (Sophie), Dick Cusack (Mr Bennington), and James Belushi (Joe Dayton)
Director: Bonnie Hunt
Bonnie Hunt’s directorial debut scores a home run when it comes to fulfilling a romantic’s idea of a drama. Return to Me is a sweet, lovely, and thoroughly moving romantic comedy that leaves me with a warm glow at the end of the movie.
And if David Duchovny’s portrayal of Fox Mulder in the TV series The X-Files is perfect as a romantic, tortured hero, well, his Bob Rueland is tortured, romantic, and accessible. Be still my heart. And Minnie Driver’s Grace, while tend to be irritating at times, is just right for the quiet moments. And there’s an adorable doggie too.
Bob loves his wife dearly but loses her to a car accident. Across town, Grace is dying because her heart is failing. When Bob’s wife dies, her heart is used to replace Grace’s, and Grace gets a second chance at life. Now, this movie juxtaposes Bob’s joy with Grace’s pain and vice versa in the opening half-hour. It’s not an easy watch: as Bob dances with his wife, obviously in love, Grace says her quiet goodbyes to her friend Megan and her grandfather Marty. And while Bob sobs bitterly alone in his house, Marty and Grace’s friends and family pray in the hospital chapel for her.
A chance meeting one year later however, brings Bob and Grace together. Bob visits Marty’s Irish-Italian restaurant and is smitten with Grace. And when he leaves his cell phone behind (accidentally… I think), he takes the opportunity to know her better.
And my, do Bob and Grace click so wonderfully. I actually sigh when Bob shyly asks if he could hold her hand – it is so simple a request, yet so romantic. It is also a pleasure to see shy, withdrawn Bob opening up to Grace and her wacky family of overprotective old coots (Marty and his gang who spend their evening arguing over baseball stars and jazz musicians, and who aren’t above some matchmaking tricks). Is bowling ever so romantic? Wait until one hears Bob’s dedication of his first bowling match in twenty-five years to Grace.
And in a nice touch, Megan and Joe Dayton demonstrate that how, even after years of marriage and kids, a couple could bicker and yell and still cuddle up to each other.
The only weak point of Return to Me is Grace’s fear that a man who knows of her heart operation would see her as “broken”. Hello? Her behavior therefore borders on irrational at times. Still, she’s not too bad.
This movie teaches me never to take happiness, no matter how brief it is, for granted. And never to let second chances slip ever, especially if they come in the form of David Duchovny. And bonus points are given to the adorable doggie who just keep waiting for his mistress to come home. All in all, a perfect movie for the romantic in me. I’m touched.