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Return to Me

Remember when “The X-Files” was the hottest show on television? Remember hundreds of fansites, and even more fan fiction? For those who don’t know or remember, “The X-Files” featured two FBI agents named Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) who investigated paranormal cases. Mulder was the believer in all things supernatural and alien; Scully was the skeptic. The show lasted nine seasons, from 1993 to 2002, about three seasons too long some critics say. “The X-Files” second movie “I Want to Believe” (the first being “The X-Files” in 1998) was released to lukewarm reviews this summer.

Duchovny’s and Anderson’s careers have mostly been less than stellar since “The X-Files” closed for good. However, Duchovny’s new daring series “Californication” has received good reviews and Anderson’s recent turn as Lady Dedlock in the Masterpiece Theater mini-series “Bleak House” garnered her kudos.

But let’s forget the “X” and open a couple of “R” (as in Romance) files for these two actors. First up is “Return to Me”, a romantic dramedy.

Duchvony stars as Bob Rueland, an architect, who’s deeply in love with wife Elizabeth (Joely Richardson). When he loses her, he is devastated and his life becomes a depressing round of work, take-out food and more work. Best friend Charlie, a vet at the zoo where Elizabeth worked, finally convinces him to come out for a blind date at an Irish-Italian (!) restaurant called O’Reilly’s Italian. The blind date is an disaster but Bob does get to meet Grace (Minnie Driver), a waitress there. There’s an almost instantaneous attraction between them.

Grace is still fragile and unsure of herself. Over a year ago, a heart transplant saved her life. She’s self-conscious about the scar, but even more concerned people see her as a person, not someone who was a heart transplant patient. Like Bob, people try to set up with unsuitable blind dates: an ex-priest, a man who also had a transplant (hair). When Bob asks her out, she excitedly bicycles in the middle of the night to her best friend Megan’s (Bonnie Hunt) place to tell her. Helping the romance along are Grace’s grandfather (Carroll O’Connor) and his brother-in-law/restaurant co-owner Angelo (Robert Loggia). Assisting them are their loveable old codger buddies, who debate the best singers and ball players in between playing cards.

Bob and Grace’s romance builds slowly but surely and both expect a greater intimacy will eventually come. Before Grace can tell Bob of her operation, she discovers something that sends her running away from him, all the way to Rome.

The chemistry between Driver and Duchovny is great, likewise that between Hunt and film hubby Jim Belushi, parents of a loud and active progeny of five.

Bonnie Hunt directed and co-wrote “Return to Me”. Although low-budget, the cinematography is crisp and the music (often Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra) reflective of what’s happening scene-wise. “Return to Me” is an old-fashioned kind of love story with a gentle humour that even your grandma would enjoy (and barring a little salty language, you wouldn’t be too embarrassed to let her watch). Some people may find it a bit sappy but it has an easy charm that is hard to deny. Perfect for the true romantics.

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