Return to Me [2000]

Bob Rueland (David Duchovny) and Grace Briggs (Minnie Driver) have very little in common. Granted, they both live in Chicago and they're both a bit lovelorn, but that's about it. Still, fate has something in mind for these two somewhat-depressed souls (a construction worker and budding artist, respectively), who've both recently had brushes with death--he's a recent widower, she's just recovered from a heart transplant--and are a little more serious than their friends and relatives. After a series of misbegotten blind dates and almost-meetings, though, these two finally get together, and find that they fit seamlessly with each other. Despite their differences, they have a lot in common--in fact, quite a lot. It seems that the heart that now beats inside Grace's chest once belonged to Bob's wife (Joely Richardson), who died in a car crash. Coincidence? We think not. A gentle, pleasing romantic comedy, Return to Me marks the directorial debut of Bonnie Hunt, an acclaimed actress known most famously for her role as Renee Zellweger's sister in Jerry Maguire. A shining, happy bright spot in whatever role she's in, Hunt has also invested the film with her trademark brand of humor: dry but sincere, sarcastic but not caustic, and with a deep current of humanity and romance. In the midst of all the permutations that fate surrounds them with, Driver and Duchovny make a pleasantly low-key couple; the triumph of the film is that despite all the contrived angst, the romance is never overly saccharine. They provide a quiet center in a film that has a fair amount of chaos in it, particularly due to Driver's extended family of Irish and Italian relatives (which occasionally tips the film into cutesy territory) and most hilariously to Driver's best friend, played by director Hunt . As a harried mother with innumerable kids and a likable oaf of a husband (James Belushi), Hunt again steals scenes effortlessly; Belushi is a comic revelation, better than he's been in years. You'll have the pleasant memories of both of these couples--one falling in love, one together for years--with you a long while after seeing this film. --Mark Englehart

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