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May 30, 2019

Then She Found Me

by Franz Patrick


Then She Found Me (2007)
★★★ / ★★★★

April (Helen Hunt) is thirty-nine, recently married, planning—still—to get pregnant despite her mother and brother’s insistence (Lynn Cohen, Ben Shenkman) that she should adopt, unaware that her husband wishes to leave her. When Ben (Matthew Broderick) finally summons the courage to tell her that he can no longer be in their marriage, a special someone enter’s April’s life: her biological mother, Bernice (Bette Midler), a talk show host, who showers her daughter with attention in order to make up for lost time.

Though the picture’s molecular makeup shares some genes with soap operas, from the resurfacing of a person from the past to feeling torn between two lovers when only one is clearly right for our protagonist, “Then She Found Me,” based on the Elinor Lipman’s novel, benefits from having cast good actors who really know how to make a three-star meal from minimal trash-bound bits and pieces. The actors’ performances won me over precisely because they are mindful of when and how to shift the mood of an interaction.

We get to know several facets of April’s recent tumultuous life. Sure, she wants a baby that she is related to by blood but there is enough subtle remarks and occurrences sprinkled throughout that maybe her wanting to give birth and raise a child is a byproduct of her abandonment issues. There are a few confronting early scenes among April, her brother, and adoptive mother. Many things about their relationship are noticeable from an outsider’s perspective but not much are expressed when they should be.

Colin Firth does his usual charming British guy schtick but it works here. He plays Frank, the father of one of April’s students, with some unpredictability with regards to his emotional state. Having left by his wife and has no choice but to care for their two children, over time there is a hidden rage that has accumulated inside him. I liked the scenes when he lashes out at April. There is romance in what they share because he has learned to love and care for April so much that, during his most vulnerable, he confuses his new girlfriend for his ex-wife. That confusion he feels is interesting because Frank has to reroute the positive feelings he has for his wife to a new woman who can be good to him.

Midler gives the funniest performance because she is willing to go all the way, even if it means coming off silly. Like Firth’s character, her jolliness is only the surface. Bernice’s successes in her career came with a price and there are moments when we are given glimpses that might suggest she is happy with the choices she made when she was young. I admired that April and Bernice’s relationship does not turn into an excessively sentimental mother-daughter bonding. Instead, April continues to keep a close watch on Bernice even everything appears to be good. I liked that the screenplay by Alice Arlen, Victor Levin, and Helen Hunt is constantly attuned to April’s fear of being left behind.

“Then She Found Me,” directed by Helen Hunt, is at its best when the comedic and dramatic elements appear to come about naturally. We can believe that these people do exist somewhere out there and so we are willing to invest in them and wonder what they are thinking or feeling when faced with struggles that leave little room for easy solutions.

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