1990; written and directed by Anthony Minghella; 102 mins
Upon the sad passing of Alan Rickman, everybody went through the usual bout of going through his back catalogue and one film that kept popping up on the radar was this, which I had long been aware of but never seen. Directed by future Oscar winner, Minghella, it is a romantic comedy drama about Nina, played by Juliet Stevenson, a TESOL teacher and muso living in London who has recently lost her partner, Jamie (Rickman) and is really struggling to come to terms with her grief. Seeing a therapist is not doing much for her and neither is every bloke around her professing their love to her left, right and centre. One day, however, Jamie reappears as a ghost (albeit, a very solid and tactile ghost) and they continue their romance as before. Continue, rather than re-kindle because they’re both still very much in love.
There’s a line in the 2003 film, Calendar Girls that – unlike the rest of the film – has stayed with me, where Julie Walters and Helen Mirren are having a massive row on an abandoned Hollywood lot and Mirren’s character accuses Walters of using her husband’s death for money and credibility and she replies; “I’m no saint – I’d give away all that money if I could spend one more hour with him!”* That’s kinda this movie; that period of suspension between loss and moving on. I personally, have no real experience of that sensation but that’s why this film is so successful because, at it’s heart, it makes you understand why these two people were together and why Nina so desperately wishes to cling on to the indeterminate amount of time she has left with this apparition of her love.
Rickman is great and really gets to show a side of his talents that didn’t often get aired, as a normal bloke. Lost amidst the wizarding and sheriffing of the bigger fare (which he was also great at), his ability to maintain that distinctive, actor-ly voice and yet seem down-to-earth and sexy in an everyman way is testament to his prodigious skills. Particularly when you consider that Jamie, technically, isn’t real.
He, however, is still a supporting actor to Juliet Stevenson, who carries this film sky high! Making Nina a strong, willful presence aswell as emotionally vulnerable during this period. Again, like Rickman, she is a relatable, unpretentious middle class person of the type that has been lost now. She’s dealing with her own problems, not expecting the entire world to pay attention whilst she languishes in a vast, multi-million pound, riverside studio! Normal person, normal problems, dealt with realistically and empathetically by a vastly underrated actress.
Minghella’s camera direction is still a bit pedestrian (bearing in mind it was his second feature and his first in 12 years) and the new guy Mark, sometimes strays too far into being a quirky nobhead but it is a film that has survived and flags up what could be really great about 90s filmmaking, like Richard Linklater and Mike Leigh…
*Couldn’t find the scene on YouTube or the exact quote on IMDb. So, fuuck them!