Still Breathing [1997]

After a limited theatrical release in 1998, Still Breathing gained a small but loyal following on cable TV as the kind of movie that die-hard romantics love to discover. It's a formulaic tale of opposites attracting, with creaky themes of predestined romance, but there's a lot to admire in the way first-time writer-director James F. Robinson has handled this material. With Brendan Fraser and the underrated Joanna Going as well-matched costars, this potentially sappy romance is instead a calm and soothing affirmation of unconditional love. It's ostensibly a comedy, but the stars and director give it something extra by slowly but surely developing a credible connection between San Antonio street performer Fletcher McBracken (Fraser) and Los Angeles con artist Roz Willoughby (Going). Having seen Roz in a vision as the love of his life, Fletcher is drawn to L.A., where Roz--targeting Fletcher as her latest mark in an art-dealer scam--is as cynically damaged as Fletcher is spiritually grounded. He's the cure for what ails her, and their awkward return to San Antonio (a lovely, sunlit location) reveals that Roz is initially too cold to fall for Fletcher's charms. As she comes to life--a process that Going expresses with convincing subtlety--Still Breathing achieves a quality of quiet warmth and grace. An overlooked gem with abundant charm and sex appeal, the movie's also blessed by an easygoing supporting cast including Ann Magnuson, Angus MacFadyen, and Hollywood veteran Celeste Holm as Fletcher's equally good-natured grandmother. --Jeff Shannon

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