(director/writer: Anthony Minghella; cinematographer: Remi Adefarasin; editor: John Stothart; music: Barrington Pheloung; cast: Alan Rickman (Jamie), Juliet Stevenson (Nina), Michael Maloney (Mark); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Robert Cooper/Mark Shivas; MGM; 1991-UK)

“Even though the ghosts can walk through walls the script can’t get past its emotionally manipulative love story.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

English filmmaker Anthony Minghella’s (“Cold Mountain”) directorial debut is made in this intelligently drawn romantic fantasy. It plays as another version of Ghost, one that is both more mature and whimsical but even though the ghosts can walk through walls the script can’t get past its emotionally manipulative love story. Only the marvelous actors keep the pretense from sinking into hapless sentimentality. Their tears and joys seemed honestly gained.

Pianist and language interpreter Nina (Juliet Stevenson) has lost playmate cellist Jamie (Alan Rickman) who was her lover and musical friend, and is still so shaken from his untimely death due to a simple sore throat that she hasn’t completely recovered from the shock. In her grief she seeks help from a therapist. One day, while playing the piano in her rat infested home, Nina discovers that Jamie is present in a ghostly form appearing in good cheer but looking pale and tired. After swearing her to secrecy, he’s only too eager to describe his demise, complain about the government, invite some pesky ghost friends over to watch videos of Woody Allen and the arcane arty flick Forgetful Venice (highly recommended!). The ghosts even cutely debate whether to watch “Five Easy Pieces” or “Fitzcarraldo.” As things progress Nina shuns her suicidal tendencies and becomes almost blissful, which astounds her friends and colleagues. Soon she meets the hunky and kindly art therapist Mark (Michael Maloney) and now must decide if she’s going to stick with a Jamie she no longer sees as being flawless or her new suitor, as this decision makes her feel less blissful but more tuned into the real world. It gets a bit too schmaltzy for me from hereon, and all its awkward lessons about learning to start life over again fell on deaf ears. The conceit being that bereavement can be replaced when something new comes along, in this case a ‘new man.’ That pronouncement seemed hardly astounding and much too simplistic and cloying to turn me on to such a sappy way of getting one’s life joyously restored again. I have always thought that losing our loved ones is not a permanent loss, mainly because our fond memories and our spiritual ties to them still remain even if they are no longer with us anymore.