Then She Found Me was released under the radar in 2008. Co-written, directed by and starring Helen Hunt, the movie is a spiritual cousin to As Good As It Gets, for which Ms. Hunt won the 1998 Best Actress Academy Award. I found this movie by accident – I was trolling Netflix and clicked on “watch it now,” mistaking the title for a cheesy romantic comedy. I wasn’t looking for nourishment, just a bit of cinematic junk food. I didn’t get what I thought I wanted, but as Mick Jagger sings, sometimes you get what you need.
This is the story of a “thirty nine and a half” year-old woman whose biological clock has started to overwhelm everything else in her life. It’s about families and love and betrayals. Surprisingly, it’s also about faith (my jaw dropped at the direction a scene took late in the movie) and reconciliation. It’s funny in the way life can sometimes be funny, and it feels like real life. There aren’t any explosions and the sexiest moments aren’t the ones that actually involve sex. It’s a good thing I like the Rolling Stones…
As director, Ms. Hunt de-glamorizes herself as an actress far more than James Brooks did in As Good As It Gets. It’s the first thing you notice, especially if you begin watching this expecting another kind of movie. The opening voice-over sounds familiar but a minute later when she first appears onscreen you don’t recognize the face. It’s an interesting choice, to hide that beauty. Because this is a movie about coming to terms with life and all of its tragedies, hurts and disappointments, perhaps the emaciated, haggard face she wears is meant to communicate her character’s desperation. I kept waiting for the character to blossom and was mildly disappointed that she never really did. The triumphs in this film are incremental but ultimately they carry a cumulative power that is surprising. Like The Visitor, another small film I loved, this movie sneaks up on you. In the closing moments I found myself choking on tears that I hadn’t realized were on their way.
Matthew Broderick contributes another of his humble supporting roles here. As he did in You Can Count On Me, he offers himself in the service of an essentially unlikable character, and you end up disliking him less than you think you probably should. Colin Firth plays the “soulmate” role with enough anger that he upends the romantic comedy cliché his character would otherwise be. There are two other bits of inspired casting that I won’t mention, one large and one inconsequential. For the inconsequential (but highly amusing) one, look for a most unexpected obstetrician. For the other, I think it’s best to be surprised, although the posters for the film give it away. I’ll say that this performance is clever and self-effacing in a different way from Ms. Hunt’s and Mr. Broderick’s, and it gives the movie some extra zing without sacrificing the essential reality of the entire project.
See this film with someone who is important to you.