P.S. I Love You
directed by Richard LaGravenese
(Warner, 2008)

P.S. I Love You, directed by Richard LaGravenese, stars Hilary Swank as Holly Kennedy, a young widow learning how to move on after her husband's untimely death. Gerard Butler plays Gerry Kennedy, her deceased husband, who sends Holly posthumous letters throughout the span of a year in an attempt to lead her through the grieving process.

With the rest of her world moving on, and her intense commitment to Gerry's memory, the question becomes whether Holly is simply clinging to the past, or are the letters an unorthodox way of helping her move forward?

This movie was unexpected. It could have easily been a weak romantic comedy that raked in a decent amount of money by using big stars like Swank and Butler as bait. In fact, I'm sure it will only rake in a small amount of money, but it's not due to dangling bait from a weak pole. From the very opening scene this movie had punch; Holly and Gerry are in a fight, and (like most moments looked upon in retrospect) it is comedic and even silly, but most importantly, it masks all of the serious underlying troubles in their relationship.

It simultaneously introduces and enforces the idea that pain and comedy are one. Of course, we all know that this concept isn't new. Some of the greatest comedians have crafted their art around it -- David Sedaris and Christopher Titus, to name a few. However, P.S. I Love You isn't necessarily using pain as a stimulant for humor. More likely, it is recognizing that both can be equally present in life despite their conflicting natures. The film asks, "Why can't we cry and laugh at the same time?"

Gerry's letters bring us more insight than movie magic. As an audience we don't completely need the usual suspension of disbelief to buy into the idea that he wrote her letters, and had them delivered to her in different ways throughout the year. He was her husband and he knew her; that's not a difficult concept to wrap our minds around. What is a difficult concept to understand is how a poor married couple (they make their financial situation quite clear in the beginning of the film) can afford a trip to Ireland. Gerry sends Holly to Ireland with her two best friends, Denise (Lisa Kudrow) and Sharon (Gina Gershon), despite the fact they were broke and Holly has been out of work for months. But let's not allow financial snafus to ruin the film for us; we'll just apply all of that extra suspension of disbelief we had left over from the "letters idea" to it.

My point is that this film is just a little too perfect for the subject matter. It's just a little too cutesy combined with a lot of melodrama. It is very true to life in that each adventure or outing due to a letter from Gerry is tarnished by the loss Holly is wrestling with; a fun night at a karaoke bar becomes a chance for Holly to sing a tear-jerking song to an invisible Gerry and a sweet serenade in an Irish pub gives her a panic attack. But altogether it manages to omit the difficult subject matter so that it doesn't become too serious. You will notice how the storyline conveniently skips over the whole part of Gerry's illness and goes straight to his funeral.

I find that ultimately it ties everything together nicely, and it surprisingly has no problem with flow. Even though it was meant to be a simple romantic comedy, it has some power to spark insight into life and its possibilities. More importantly, it makes us ponder about our own possibilities: our potential to recognize the comedy in life even in the midst of tragedy and our potential for holistically knowing another human being on this earth. Which, let's face it, is very unlikely.

review by
Molly Ebert

5 September 2009

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