This earnest tearjerker is enough of a distinctively odd duck to keep you engaged. In the first few minutes, vacationing LA interior designer Nikki (Annette Bening) discovers her husband Garrett (Ed Harris) dead on the seashore, the victim of a riptide. Fast forward five years, still hurting Nikki starts pursuing Garrett’s almost exact physical double, Tom (also Harris), a local art teacher. Can romance bloom again?
In a film of this sort, the actor is the auteur; turn the clock back to Old Hollywood and this could have been a vehicle for Bette Davis or Joan Crawford. And Bening is similarly captivating, unearthing heartbreak in every gesture. The scene in which Nikki first approaches new love Tom is a masterful display of outer awkwardness masking inner torment.
Harris is every bit her equal, both hardened and sensitive to the point that he can make a ludicrous line like ‘I could take a bath in how you look at me’ ring with swoon-worthy sincerity. In one of his final roles, Robin Williams lends strong support as the neighbour who harbours an unrequited crush on Nikki. It’s refreshing to find a love story – even one of modest aims and accomplishments – that plays all its heated emotions with a completely straight face.