A Change of Heart
Return to Me
Review by Ross Anthony

"It's a shame we gotta put roofs on 'em," architect, builder, handsome, rich successful, eternally nice guy, David Duchovny utters the film's opening line as he stands atop a partially constructed building. His sentence ends a gentle, patiently tightening aerial shot from a blimp high above Chicago.

It's a sweet introduction, but here's a better one: close shot on Duchovny donning a bloodstained white tuxedo standing disengaged and expressionless as he peers through a hospital's emergency ward doors. Flashback: Duchovny as teen on first date with future wife, first kiss, first marriage, wife at her job with great ape at the zoo, at a zoo fund-raiser supporting wife's projects, at night in the car afterwards - headlights jump the double yellow and approach full speed. Back to present day: Duchovny gets the bad news as a group of organ donor personnel jog past toting a full thermos. Roll opening credits. Return to Duchovny, one year later, trying to re-start his life while grieving the death of his wife.

That necessary background info could be filmed creatively in three minutes (okay, maybe five). Instead, "Return to Me" spends what seems like 25 minutes just to establish Duchovny's love of his wife. This still isn't a great sin, the problem is that it lacks life. Feeling more like a necessary burden for the filmmakers than entertainment; moviegoers deserve better. If we're going to spend a good fraction of the film on "prerequisite information" it should at least be Return to Mecompelling. This one's tragically typical littered with the trite, example: "There's my husband with Sidney the ape; my husband's the one on the right." However, I quite enjoyed the conclusion of this sequence (which ends visually as my suggestion begins); Duchovny, bloodstained, peers blankly into surgery ward while soundtrack continues the song "Return to Me" but minus the music, simply acappella. It's a chillingly lonely affect.

The real story (which is quite interesting) starts when a sickly and dying Minnie Driver receives David's dead wife's heart (via transplant - not the US post) restoring her to health, much to the delight of her loving grandfather Carol O'Connor. Driver is an excellent actress, Duchovny is also charming with his subtle emotionalism, and director/actress/writer Bonnie Hunt delivers a strong performance as Minnie's best friend. But it's O'Connor's big heart and loving charisma that anchors the film (despite his goofy Irish accent).

Mostly a love story (David soon enough meets Minnie), with comic relief, (James Belushi is a lot of fun as beer-bellied, Joe Average, dad), the picture also relies on suspense. What will happen when Minnie tells David about her operation? Will they realize whose heart is where? If and when they do, will it prompt a change of heart?

The family sequences are so warm and full, they'll leave you sure that these writers have kids of their own. Aside from the pale intro sequence, the film has heart and humor.

  • Return to Me. Copyright © 2000. Rated PG.
  • Starring David Duchovny, Minnie Driver, Carrol O'Connor, Robert Loggia, Bonnie Hunt, David Alan Grier, Joely Richardson, Eddie Jones, James Belushi.
  • Directed by Bonnie Hunt.
  • Written by Bonnie Hunt & Don Lake.
  • Produced by Jennie Lew Tugend at MGM/JTL.


Copyright © 2000. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 07:55:34 PDT