Truly Madly Deeply: Nina’s boyfriend is dead, and she’s forgotten how to live, so he comes back to help her. Juliet Stevenson is fearless, and Alan Rickman, quite memorably, does not play a villain. A truly, deeply, poignant, funny film from writer/director Anthony Minghella (“The English Patient”), this is a grown-up ghost story for anyone who’s ever longed for one last moment with someone special who’s passed on. PG
Sliding Doors: A neat conceit defines the plot – how would your life change, depending upon whether you caught the train home, or missed it? Gywneth Paltrow does a fine, unmannered job here playing a Brit. The stranger she meets on the train (John Hannah) may just save her from herself. Hannah (“Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “The Mummy”) steals this one in a most unusual turn – he’s just a regular bloke, far from perfect, who makes you believe that these guys can – and do – exist. John Lynch is Paltrow’s unworthy boyfriend. You’ll hate him. PG 13
Circle of Friends: Minnie Driver is Benny, the good-natured big girl who knows she must leave the Irish village where she lives if she’s going to grow up. Chris O’Donnell (forgive his Irish accent) is the hotshot university boy who is taken with Benny, just the way we’d like it to be in real life. She deserves him, but the story turns on the question – does he, and her longtime childhood friends -- deserve her? Alan Cumming plays the worm of a clerk who works for Benny’s father, and thinks that entitles him to her affections. Before Zelwegger thought of hitting the milkshakes, Driver took a chance, and created a most endearing, true character. Quibble: The moviemakers changed the spunkier ending of Maeve Binchy’s book, which suited Benny better. PG 13
The Land Girls During World War II, young women in England contributed to the war effort by helping farmers keep going while the boys enlisted. This is the story of three “land girls,” and how the war – and their relationship with one farmer’s son – transforms them. Beautifully told and photographed, all the actors are spot on in their performances particularly Steven Mackintosh, who shines as Joe, the awkward farm boy-turned-man. R
And the edgier choices…
My Name Is Joe: Peter McMullen is Joe, the recovering alcoholic who falls for a social worker. If he can love her, perhaps he can find redemption. A spare, raw McMullen will break your heart. Subtitles help with the thick Scottish accents, but don’t let this put you off. The characters are gold. R
Bulletproof Heart: Anthony LaPaglia is the hitman who’s unhappy in his work, but good at it. His job: to eliminate a woman (Mimi Rodgers) who, in this unnerving twist, wants to die. The dilemma: LaPaglia wants – no, needs -- to save her. Matt Craven plays LaPaglia’s sideman, a simpleton looking to prove he has the right stuff. The interplay among the three actors – and the unforgiving shock of an ending – makes this one stand out. R
P.S. Hey guys-here’s an idea: print this column, and put it in your wallet to take to the video store.