UK / 1991
Director and Writer: Anthony Minghella
Cast: Juliet Stevenson, Alan Rickman, Bill Paterson, Michael Maloney, Jenny Howe
Not all ghosts returning to affect human lives come with malice – from the delightful Topper to the bemused couple in Beetlejuice, the accent has been on humour and even relatively straight drama rather than horror, but the very Englishness of the BAFTA-winning Truly, Madly, Deeply, written and directed by Anthony Minghella, offers a fresh and very emotional take on the perennial plot.
Nina (Juliet Stevenson) has lost her lover Jamie (Alan Rickman) and is subsumed by grief, almost unable to carry on with work, with friends, with life. And then he returns, in one of cinema’s engagingly touching scenes. Deliriously happy, she must, of course, hide his return from her friends but even they remark on her new found happiness, in particular Mark (Michael Maloney), who is in love with Nina but felt unable to declare his feelings while she was so grief-stricken. Meanwhile, Jamie has taken to inviting his dead mates to the house for video evenings and finds it hard to adjust to being dead among the living. And as Mark presses his suit, so Nina too must choose between the dead and the living…
Minghella nicely balances the humour (the arguments over which videos to watch are worthy of Allen) and the drama and emotion of loss and possible renewal of deep love – Stevenson in particular gives a heart-rending performance of weeping, red-eyed, runny-nosed grief while Rickman’s character is persuasively drawn to show why she misses him so. Minghella refuses to make the sort of ending Hollywood would demand and the end result is, as one critic wrote, “A Ghost for grown-ups.”