Directed by Alan Rudolph
Written by Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon
Released November 1987
I discovered this somewhat obscure film during my time working in video store (this was after I quit the porn shop). During the last few months as business there got slower I’d sit in the store and watch movies all day. I picked this randomly one day and watched it and was instantly entranced. It’s been one of my favorite films ever since.
Timothy Hutton stars first as a guy named Mike who lives in a small town in Pennsylvania in the 1940’s. Mike dies heroically one day, after saving a woman her her kids from drowning in a river. He goes to Heaven where he meets a Heavenly spirit named Annie, played by Kelly McGillis. Unlike Mike, Annie has never been “born”, she’s a new soul created in Heaven. While together in Heaven they fall in love. But then one day Annie disappears. It turns out that it was time for her to be born and live on Earth. Mike is heartbroken and goes to an angel named Emmett (a man, but played by Debra Winger) and begs for the chance to be reincarnated back on Earth so he can be with her again. Despite the fact that they’ll be two different people and have no memory of their time in Heaven, Mike is convinced that they are soul-mates and will find each other again. Emmett agrees to send Mike back, but warns him that if he and Annie don’t find each other in 30 years then they’ll never find each other.
And so the rest of the film shows us their new lives. Mike is reborn as Elmo, born to a poor young single mother, and has a harsh childhood, with an abusive stepfather. He serves in the army during Vietnam and basically becomes a drifter, ambling through life, until finally becoming a successful songwriter. Annie is born as Ally, who has a more stable childhood and life, eventually meeting a man named Tom (played by Timothy Daly) and they get married. Tom eventually becomes a big famous Hollywood director and dumps her for a younger woman, leaving Ally feeling lost an alone. And there a few scene during the years where they almost meet each other but always just miss each other. And it all leads up to Elmo’s 30th birthday, the last chance to meet Ally. Will he?
WELL OF COURSE THEY MEET EACH OTHER!
Duh. Does that even really count as a spoiler? It’s a romance film, of course you know that they’re going to have a happy ending (but I won’t tell you how they meet, you’ll have to watch it yourself). The mystery is in the journey, that’s what you watch this film for.
Yes, it’s a sappy sentimental little love story, full of “coincidences” that drive the story forward. And it’s got more than a couple of illogical plot-holes, I’ll admit. And there’s several heavy themes (like reincarnation, the existence of souls, the issue of free will) that the film just glosses over without really exploring. But, what can I say? Maybe I’m just a hopeless romantic, but I just love this film. It’s a beautiful story. Lovers meeting in Heaven and then trying to find each other on Earth. I think it’s helped by the performances of Hutton and McGillis who really do great jobs in their roles. I’ll also single out Ann Wedgeworth and James Gammon who play Mike’s parents, whom he later runs into again as Elmo, when he hitchhike’s a ride with them (told you there are coincidences in this film), and they have some good scenes. And that’s why, overall, I’ll always recommend this film.