It’s been one of those weekends where I need a little romance in my life! A week of poorly children, a cough and cold myself and a husband who, let’s be honest, still needs a little bit of training into how to effectively stop children from trashing the house on his shift have made me yearn for a simple love story to restore my faith in romance! So, following on from my previous post, here’s a little Media Studies style analysis of one of my favourite scenes from the lovely Return to Me.
What makes this whole film so special is the interplay between the characters, and not just the two leads; they are bound together by a twist of fate so unique that it hits you right in the heartstrings. We are caught up in the romance immediately; and there is always a sense of what will, inevitably occur when the twist of fate becomes clear to the lovers. We as an audience know the score from the start; the pleasure of the story comes in watching their discovery of what has brought them together, and their reactions to it. And if that’s not my best attempt at a spoiler free paragraph, I don’t know what is!
So we finally come to the scene where they’ve been through the mill; events have brought them together, they’ve fallen in love, they’ve been separated again, and we’re in Italy. Grace, a talented artist, is painting in a piazza. There are nuns watching her. It’s a beautiful sunny day, and tourists are everywhere, but, as the camera pans back towards where she is sitting at her easel, we see a red bicycle approaching. On the handlebars is a nun, and the rider of the bike is Bob.
The dialogue in this scene is simple, restrained and measured. There are about four lines in total. As Grace realises who is riding her bike, she stands (a nice reversal of the ‘knees going weak’ trope, usually seen at moments like this). Her facial expression and body language show she is stunned to see Bob behind the nun. She utters one line: ‘You came all the way to Italy?’, which he affirms, then repeats.
Then, for thirty blissful seconds, we get The Hug. Not a kiss, but a warm, fluffy, ‘I’ve missed you so much’ cuddle. And what’s interesting about it is that it’s on totally equal terms; Bob’s not sweeping Grace off her feet, they’re embracing as equals. And the camera stays still and allows the audience to share in this glorious moment. There’s a slight switch of perspective when the camera looks from over Bob’s shoulder to over Grace’s but their expressions and their body language totally mirror each other.
Finally, after sharing this wonderfully emotive moment with them, the audience looks back over Bob’s shoulder. He brings both hands up to Grace’s face and cups it as if she is the most precious thing in the world. There’s a pause just long enough to raise the emotive tension that little bit higher, and then he mutters the immortal ‘I love you, Grace.’ The music rises to a crescendo and they kiss. Cue the nuns smiling and tilting their heads in approval.
And just when you think it can’t get any better, the camera shifts back to over Grace’s shoulder, so we see Bob’s expression mid kiss, to balance the shot of Grace’s just beforehand. She raises her hand to his face in a similar gesture, and there’s a glorious moment of touch, that Bonnie Hunt, the director, lets play out beautifully. At this point I’m usually welling up, but when Bob then dips his head to listen to Grace’s heart, the same heart that *SPOILER ALERT* once belonged to his beloved wife…well, tears start flowing.
It’s sentimental, it’s weepy, but it’s never schmaltzy. And I flipping love it! But don’t just take my word for it – here’s the scene: