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Film Review: Just Like Heaven

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One of those films where you sit down calm in the knowledge that you’ve read the blurb and have an idea of where it will end up, and then realise you’ve been completely in the dark, and it’s nothing to do with the lights being out.

Country: USA
Language: English
Year: 2005
Length: 95 minutes
Production House: DreamWorks
Date Reviewed: 6th July 2011
Rating: 4/5

David moves into an apartment that is linked to a family tragedy (not his family). The tragedy isn’t known to him. Soon his home is visited by a woman who appears at random intervals, claiming it’s hers. It’s quite obvious she is not human. Yet Elizabeth cannot remember anything about her previous life, indeed it took a few moments for her to recall her name, and so she and David set out to find out who she was. The truth comes as a shock, as does everything else about her situation.

After discussing this film with the person who lent it to me who told me it was a rubbish film, I realised that they had missed the whole point of it. Just Like Heaven combines a very serious issue, one that is being debated constantly in our present day, and humour. Whether this was intended by the writers as a commentary on a moral issue or whether they simply wanted the fun and weren’t actually too bothered about the issue is irrelevant in a way – they have produced a work that will appeal to people concerned with the issue whilst providing enough laughs for those who simply want to watch a Reese Witherspoon.

The issue concerned is focused on, but not so much that it drowns out the rest of the film. The most hard-hitting facts are related to the audience but otherwise you’re left to enjoy the humour and, most importantly, feel that you are allowed to enjoy the humour. The comedy works because it isn’t typical and is also well placed throughout the film; there are no sudden spots of hilarity followed by long stretches of dullness. There are a few moments when the romance makes the issue seem less important, but it fits the overall idea.

Reese Witherspoon’s Elizabeth is proud of her home; I suppose you might call her a neat freak, though a control-freak-when-it-comes-to-her-home is a more accurate description. Mark Ruffalo’s David is rather different to her yet a good match, and the actors have chemistry. The chemistry isn’t profound but then given the nature of the story and the comedic element, that doesn’t matter.

Of course the character who develops the most is Elizabeth, but the way David comes to accept the change in his life that he was struggling with at the start of the film is well portrayed and written.

Without giving away the major point of the plot, which the DVD summary does not give and because of that and because my own enjoyment was based on prior ignorance, it’s difficult to explain specifically why this film is worth a watch. Certainly anyone who is put off by the idea of a romantic comedy that has flowers all over the publicity images and suggests a love affair between a man and a ghost should rethink their decision not to watch it. And, since in many cases a romantic comedy is off-putting because a viewer is after something that will make them think, I will also say that the set-up is deceiving.

If you are looking solely to laugh and cry at the sweetness of a couple coming together through hardship, do not watch this film. If you are looking for a film that will make you reflect, make you question, and make you laugh too, you should definitely consider Just Like Heaven an option.



September 1, 2011, 4:44 pm

This is definitely a sweet film. I wasn’t crazy on it but it’s definitely one of those you stick on when you want to just enjoy something cute. :)

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