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Film / Return to Me

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"Grace has Bob's dead wife's heart!"
Megan, helpfully summarizing the plot.

A 2000 romantic comedy starring David Duchovny and Minnie Driver. Bonnie Hunt directed the film, helped write the screenplay, and appears in a supporting role. Also in the cast are Carroll O'Connor, Robert Loggia, David Alan Grier, Joely Richardson, and James Belushi.

Bob Rueland (Duchovny), a Chicago architect, is married to Elizabeth (Richardson), a zoologist. After Elizabeth is killed in an auto accident, her heart is transplanted to artist Grace Biggs (Driver), who's near death from the congenital heart disease she's suffered since she was a teenager. Grace is grateful for the transplant and composes a letter to Elizabeth's grieving family thanking them, but can't bring herself to mail it. She's also reluctant to get into the dating scene, despite the urging of her friend Megan (Hunt), due to self-consciousness over the scar on her chest following the operation.

A year passes. Bob is grieving and lonely, prompting his friend Charlie (Grier) to set him up on a blind date. While the date itself does not go well, Bob finds himself attracted to the waitress at the restaurant. Who happens to be Grace, whom Bob has never met. And whose thank-you letter was finally sent and is sitting unopened at Bob's house. Hilarity, of the heartwarming variety, ensues.

This film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Billy Needs an Organ: Grace, a twenty-something woman, needs a heart.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The whole movie is based on Bob falling in love with the woman who received his wife's heart, and her falling in love with him, with neither of them aware of the connection until well into the relationship. There is some suggestion that Grace's new heart is somehow recognized by people (and animals) that knew Elizabeth, but it is never made explicit.
  • Excuse Plot: Romantic Comedies have been built on less but the central conflict is, "my girlfriend has an organ from my late wife" is weird but not exactly life-denying.
  • Good-Times Montage: A nice one set to Frank Sinatra's "At Long Last Love".
  • Literal Change of Heart: Grace receives a heart transplant from Bob's late wife.
  • The Matchmaker: Boy howdy. Grace has an entire troop of them in her grandpa, her uncle, their friends, etc. Bob's best friend Charlie is trying to set him up as well, but his attempts don't work out very well.
  • Orphaned Punchline: "I told you I don't my brown bananas!"
  • The Promise: Elizabeth promises Bob that some day they'll go to Italy together.
  • Shipper on Deck: Literally everyone in this movie is rooting for Bob and Grace to get together. Including random strangers met in Rome (a waiter and some nuns) and even Bob's dog Mel.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Spoofed. Grace panics when she thinks Bob is about to see her heart transplant scar and slaps him.
  • Survivor Guilt: Grace has a version of this, since she knows that she's only alive because someone else is dead.
  • That Came Out Wrong: Grace's grandfather gives her some well-meant reassurance when she's self-conscious about her scar:
    Marty: You're beautiful, and no one's going to notice your chest.
    Grace: Thanks a lot.
  • Titled After the Song: Dean Martin's 1957 hit of the same name, which naturally appears on the soundtrack.
  • Token Black Friend: Charlie is Bob's best friend, and the only prominent black character.