True friendship to the fore in Irish-themed film
Category: P.S. I Love You Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: January 11, 2008 | Publication: The Guardian | Author: Editor
Holly (Hilary Swank) and Gerry (Gerard Butler) are a typical New York couple starting out, with financial stresses and family issues. When Gerry dies prematurely, Holly is shattered and dives deep into grief. But then the first of several letters arrives, all planned and prepared by Gerry before his death, each one comforting and cajoling her to let go, and start living her life. It's the same message from her mother (Kathy Bates) and friends (Lisa Kudrow, Gina Gershon), and even her mother's bartender, Daniel (Harry Connick Jr.). She can't quite let go though, and she makes a trip to Ireland to visit Gerry's parents, where she meets the handsome William (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). But it seems that nothing and no one can dispel her grief - she has to do it herself.
The wonderful ability to naturally elicit simultaneous laughter and tears is PS I Love You's greatest strength, as it takes us through a myriad of emotions. While it's first and foremost a love story, this deeply affecting film is also about true friendship, close family and learning enough about oneself to view the world in a new light. Surprisingly uplifting for a film that prompts as many tears as those that ran down my cheeks this honest and moving film delivers one of the year's best love stories.
Swank and Butler convince us from the very first scene in which Holly and Gerry are having a full on row. The silent treatment turns into a war of words and by the time they reconcile with promises, laughter and hot sex, we know that they are made for each other. Swank's vulnerability as the unsure woman who wants to avoid making mistakes is tangible, while Butler is perfect as the natural gregarious extravert who takes Holly out of her shell. Director Richard LaGravenese, who also had a hand in writing the screenplay (based on Cecelia Ahern's novel) tells this love story (told in flashback in reverse order) with great sensitivity. Things never turn out how you expect, and the film plays exactly the same way. Harry Connick Jnr is unforgettable as the unerringly honest Daniel, connected to Holly through 'self-pity, bitterness and vomit'; Lisa Kudrow thrives on being the man-hungry Denise who spits out perpetual cynicism and Kathy Bates is outstanding as the disapproving mother who has forgotten how to laugh.
From urban New York to the open fields of Ireland, PS I Love You crosses boundaries of country, life, death and language to deliver truth without words. Only the most hard hearted critic with a cynical bent would be churlish enough to scorn PS I Love You, a romanticised story of a pretty grieving widow whose late husband was thoughtful enough to leave her instructions on how to cope. Certainly, the tone and the style is pink, but there are some terrific performances and plenty of laughs to beef it up, as it were.
The screenplay flirts with the occasional overstatements of the 'lover as ghost' subgenre of romantic comedies, so we do get to see Butler after death - both as fantasy and in flashbacks. Some of the direction sails all too close to schmaltz, but it's so likeable and enjoyable, and the cast is so engaging we don't really care. The novelty of the novel, that a dead man's pre-arranged love letters form a story structure, is well handled, although it gets a tad repetitious after a while, yet with an endearing, playful tone. It's a shamelessly escapist movie for romantic lovers and lonely hearts alike.