Nora Ephron's gentle romantic comedy, a throwback to the tearjerkers of the '40s and '50s, is saved from mawkishness by a combination of deft one-liners and a typically winning performance by Tom Hanks. Ephron, who made her reputation as a tough, no-nonsense journalist and author in the '60s before moving on to screenwriting, was also famous for having eviscerated her two ex-husbands in print. Whether her late-career foray into romantic comedy signaled a new-found vulnerability or a keen awareness of film industry economics, only she can say. The film uses Leo McCarey's An Affair to Remember (1957) as a touchstone, and its gossamer plot is similarly based on coincidence, as an affianced journalist (Meg Ryan) becomes enamored of an architect (Hanks) after hearing him express his love for his deceased wife on a radio call-in show. Though the film offers little in the way of surprise, Ephron was shrewd in casting Hanks, an actor whose rare ability to play both his character's melancholy and deadpan wit help to keep the project's saccharine quotient at a tolerable level. Ross Malinger, who plays his young son, also scores here, a kid with the timing and delivery of a veteran tummler. Ryan is appealing, but is saddled with a vague character defined mostly by her date with destiny. To enhance the mood the film, it features a soundtrack of love songs from earlier decades by the likes of Nat King Cole and Ray Charles, which can be enjoyed even by those who are a mite skeptical about what they've been watching.
by Michael Costello review