Movie Review: P.S. I Love You

Category: P.S. I Love You Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: February 15, 2008 | Publication: | Author: Editor
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P.S. I Love You is a film by writer-director Richard LaGravenese (Freedom Writers), starring Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby) and Gerard Butler (The Phantom of the Opera). Richard LaGravenese and Steven Rogers adapt the novel by Cecelia Ahern into this unusual love story. This is not a romantic comedy, but a film that nestles in the groove of life, love and death. The drama is moving, and comedy is used to counterbalance the sorrow. There are elements of romance, but it seems inappropriate to categorise the film as romantic in its traditional sense. The romance can be appreciated, but is slightly tainted by the bleak prospects of the primary relationship’s future and integrity within the mourning period. P.S. I Love You is characterised by a strong ensemble, powerful writing and excellent performances, however the concept of one way communication wasn’t fully explored.

Gerry (Butler) and Holly Kennedy (Swank) are in love, well most of the time. Their parents had reservations about their early marriage, but 9 years down the road they’re still doing just fine. Gerry is a strapping Irish lad, who’s making a career out of limo driving, while Holly is a sweet New York real estate agent. Their relationship isn’t perfect, but ends early when Gerry leaves Holly as a 30-year-old widow. She’s not alone… her friends comfort and guide her after Gerry’s wake. However, they’re not the ones that help her move on with her life with and without Gerry.

P.S. I Love You has direct parallels with The Lake House, which also dealt with love letters, romance and death. However, the fantasy element is brought down to earth and it becomes a matter of one-way communication. It also reminds one of Dear Frankie, a Scottish film starring none other than Gerard Butler. Dear Frankie told the story of a single mother’s attempt to keep her deaf son from discovering his real father. She wrote letters to her son as though his father was sailing the high seas. Frankie was able to live in hope that someday his father would return… while reaping the benefits of a distant, yet loving father figure. Gerard Butler played the stranger that filled in as Frankie’s “father”. The whole concept of someone guiding you, when they’re absent is intriguing. Holly’s journey is also shaped by letters, except they’re from her husband, Gerry. She realises that Gerry won’t return, but he wants to help her get back on track with her life after his death.

The film ventures into dark comedy during, and just after the wake. There’s a ruthlessness about the emotions, and Holly’s anger is all bottled up, after feeling abandoned like her mother. As the film progresses, we become aware that Holly’s only starting to grow up after Gerry’s death. She married at 19, and may not have had enough time to come to a full realisation of who she really was. Gerry was a blessing, but it seems that he was able to develop his Holly even further, by releasing her from any pent up guilt or anger. She hits rock bottom, and Gerry’s letters seem to put her in the right place, at the right time for renewal.

P.S. I Love You is more about Holly’s transition than about their relationship. LaGravenese constructs memories as low grade flashbacks, which give the audience a historical perspective on their marriage. Usually romance doesn’t really have anywhere to go in a Hollywood marriage, as it usually draws the curtains on fairy tale romances. The pinnacle of love is determined to be a pristine wedding, but P.S. I Love You knows better. The relationship is built on solid commitment, which Holly finds difficult to let go. Gerry was the only man she ever really knew, and moving on after such heartfelt connectedness is a slow and painful process. P.S. I Love You eases the pain, and speeds up Holly’s recovery.

The film shows how friends and family are so important in setting new foundations. Their involvement alleviates Holly’s tangled spirits, and she’s able to focus on building new pillars around her. Gina Gershon and Lisa Kudrow cast some humour into an otherwise melancholy trip down memory lane. Kudrow plays the antithesis of Phoebe, a character she’s still trying to shrug off, and works the comedy with great wit and cynicism. Gershon is slightly quieter, but embraces Holly with the “there no matter what” blanket. The ensemble is also bolstered by the presence of Kathy Bates as Holly’s mom, Patricia and Harry Connick Jr. as Daniel. Bates is terrific as the over-concerned, trust me I’ve been there mom, while Connick’s performance as the fall back guy is blatantly funny. The ensemble work well individually and together, and this is one of P.S. I Love You’s strong points.

What doesn’t really work are some of the scenes, which are cute but too contrived. Swank is portrayed as a young art student and tourist when she meets Butler, and it just seems a little far-fetched. Then the story seemed to lose its integrity when Holly went on a journey to Ireland, organised by Gerry. She had only known Gerry intimately, yet managed to hit pause on her state of mourning to meet her needs. The film seemed intent on peppering the script with new could-bes in a time when she wasn’t looking to start a new long-term relationship. They primed Holly’s character to be in love with the old Hollywood, with references to Bette Davis. More importantly, she only ever had one relationship, which was monogamous. To throw dirt may have signalled a change in the winds, but didn’t seem to fit her character.

Having said that, the film is touching and one is willing to see past the flaws with the level of sincerity displayed by its cast. The message is optimistic, and seeks to encourage the Phoenix to rise out of the ashes. It’s good to remember those you love, but it’s important to love yourself enough to move on with your life. Holly’s journey is directed towards independence, and Gerry’s words are calling her to map a life for herself. She’s able to move past the sadness and loneliness onto bigger and better things. It’s what Gerry wanted, because he loved her so much.

P.S. I Love You is not a classic date movie, but reminds us how beautiful and fragile are lives are. Holly’s story pushes us to live life baggage-free. Harbouring resentment, anger or misplaced guilt only deteriorates its bearer, and if every person we lost was able to write us letters, they’d probably echo this sentiment. Love is everything, and without the capacity to love or be loved, the life’s story becomes an uphill struggle. P.S. I Love You is one of those films that seeks to rise above the mediocrity of meaningless romantic comedies, and it succeeds.