Many people complain that there are few new ideas in film today, so a movie about a possibly reincarnated lover who died years ago seems like an original concept. Yet, now, merely months apart, both Birth and P.S. debut on screens with remarkably similar premises. Both are not very good, but P.S. is a little more plausible, only because the possibly reincarnated man is a young man, and not a boy. His appearance throws Louise Harrington's (Laura Linney, Kinsey, Love Actually) into turmoil, since her great love died a few decades ago. Harrington works for Columbia, and one day comes across an application from a prospective art student named F. Scott Feindstadt. This was the name of her old boyfriend who died in a car crash. Intrigued, she invites him in for an interview, only to find that he looks remarkably like her old flame and even paints the same way.

She quickly seduces Feindstadt (Topher Grace, Ocean's Twelve, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!), who easily agrees. After all, he's just a young man, and Harrington is offering free sex. The more she gets to know him, the more unnerving the similarities become. He uses the same idiosyncratic phrases, and even asks to paint her portrait (as her old boyfriend did). Her friend Missy (Marcia Gay Harden, Welcome to Mooseport, Mona Lisa Smile) thinks something is going on, yet Harrington refuses to tell. Harrington is also still friendly with her ex-husband Peter (Gabriel Byrne, Vanity Fair, Ghost Ship), and he drops a bomb into her life about their past relationship. Peter's revelation, combined with the presence of Feindstadt, causes her to reach an emotional crisis.

The hard part is, it's really hard to care. Dylan Kidd adapted and directed P.S. from Helen Schulman's novel. This is the type of story that would work much better on the page rather than on screen, since much of the emotional turmoil is internal. Even Linney, who has an uncanny ability to bring forth subtle emotions, does not stand a chance with the script, which seems pretty, well, pedestrian. Kidd's first film was Roger Dodger, a vicious look at relationships. He changes tone completely here, going for a moody, thoughtful drama not necessarily about any sort of reincarnation, but about how the reappearance, or even reemergence of a vivid, strong memory affects somebody in the present. Harrington never got over the death of her boyfriend, and now, years later, she needs to deal with all the pent-up emotion. It's hard to say how much the Harrington character changes, because there is no real sense of who she was before she meet the new Feindstadt. Kidd hints that she led a pretty sedate, dull life.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 37 minutes, Rated R for language and sexuality.

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