Shutter

Starring Helen Hunt, Colin Firth, Bette Midler and Matthew Broderick. Directed by Helen Hunt.
Running Time: 101 mins
Rated: Rated M (moderate sexual references and coarse language)

Based on the book of the same name by Elinor Lipman, Then She Found introduces us to April Epner (Hunt), who is thirty-nine years old. Her biological clock is not so much ticking as sounding an alarm; her charming but immature husband, Ben (Matthew Broderick), decides their recent marriage is a mistake; and her ailing adoptive mother, whom April has been nursing through her illness, dies. As if this weren't enough to deal with, a brassy, overbearing local talk-show host named Bernice Graves (Bette Midler) shows up out of the blue, announcing herself as April's biological mother. And she has incredible news: April is the result of a one-night stand Bernice had with Steve McQueen nearly forty years ago.

Devastated on the one hand and bewildered on the other, April finds solace from her rapidly unraveling life in a growing relationship with Frank (Colin Firth), a handsome, warm and suddenly single dad whose wife recently abandoned him and their children. As this new relationship blossoms, April's general state of confusion gets considerably worse when she finds out that she is pregnant.

Helen Hunt is a distinguished actor, having won four Emmys, four Golden Globes, two Screen Actors Guild awards and an Oscar for As Good As It Gets. Then She Found me marks her directorial debut. In fact this film seems to have been something of a personal quest with Hunt directing, screenwriting, producing and starring in it. This is, clearly, a story she wanted to tell. Her star power no doubt helped assemble the fine ensemble, but, at least initially, the audience might wonder why they bothered.

This is a slow-burn film. After a sluggish start, these highly neurotic characters grow on you, by stealth. It may come as a surprise to find just how affecting this film ends up being. The writing is tight, the humour sharp and the acting is universally good, even from the over-the-top Ms Midler who plays an over-the-top long lost mother.

An unusual romantic comedy, Then She Found Me abjures a polished look for a flat mat, reflecting April's worldview and her low self esteem. Hunt's camera is not kind to her own character, but I wondered if April needed to look so dowdy.

The script is unusually complex too, touching on issues of fidelity in marriage, faith, prayer, the biological clock and a baby as a must-have commodity.

It is disappointing to note that the language is frequent and rough, and some viewers will find the way the Lord's name is abused particularly offensive. And this lack of discipline even extends to casting Salmon Rushdie as April's obstetrician. This jars and distracts from the central story.

Then She Found Me is a modest film which keeps the focus on deeply flawed characters trying to find the secret to happiness. By the film's end it presents answers that most Christians know are popular but in the long term quite inadequate.

Hopscotch Out May 15

Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the director of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

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