Unbreathing, once more

I had Branagh's Dead Again recommended to me a few weeks ago, but didn't get a chance to watch it until last week.

It isn't the sort of thing I tend to go for (reincarnation is neat as a concept, but I prefer to avoid it in realistic-seeming movies. Also not into mysteries, despite my mom loving them), but it was pretty enjoyable.

Unsurprisingly, Branagh and Thompson had very good chemistry, but the acting around them was also very good. I generally like Robin Williams (I think Mrs Doubtfire was the only thing I didn't like him in), and he turned in a good performance here. Andy Garcia is one whose work I don't seek out, but he's been good when I have seen him.

So what actually happened? It starts out with newspaper clippings of a murder committed with a pair of shears. A famous composer has killed his wife, the headlines say. Then it folds into a dark interview, with music that works in a pair of shears clipping away. Then we find out that there are shears in the scene, as the composer is getting his hair cut before being executed. Andy Garcia's reporter is giving a final interview to the composer. We wonder if the composer actually did it.

The composer walks off to face the music. Garcia stays behind, for a minute; eventually notices that the shears are missing. He chases down the hall, and the scene ends with the composer brandishing the shears at an unknown woman, while Garcia is yelling to stop whatever happens.

This was all happening back in '48, and now we cut to the present day, and see Thompson's Grace waking up, screaming, in the same house where the composer lived. We find that it is now a church-run school for young boys. We also see that Grace is a mute amnesiac, and disrupting the school.

The school, wishing to get rid of the disruption, calls Branagh's Mike Church, a gumshoe who went to the school years earlier. He agrees to get her picture in the paper, and to take her to an institution, but when they get to the institution, he's horrified at what he sees.

He agrees, then, to let her stay with him for a few days, until her family shows up. The first person to show up is actually a hypnotist and treasure seeker (we later learn), who offers to hypnotize Grace to find out what happened.

They agree to do so, and find her having memories of the composer and his wife (who, it should be noted, are played by Branagh and Thompson, respectively). After a couple of sessions of this, where we learn of the composer's history, housekeeper, dreams, and marriage, Church is getting pretty freaked out. Meanwhile, Grace and Mike are finding affinity for one another.

In this part, we're also seeing a kind of karmic loop being drawn around the principle characters that will snare even more than seems evident to begin with.

Mike finds that he needs to answer the question of whether the composer actually did kill his wife. If not, who did? And will Grace get her memories back? Why do Mike and Grace get along so well? Will they be kept apart by other people?

And along the way, Mike gets advice and assistance from Robin Williams' de-licensed psychiatrist and the newpaperman Pete Dugan (played by Wayne Knight, who was slightly less annoying here than as Newman on Seinfeld or Nedry in Jurassic Park).

I liked how tidily they managed to get everything to fit together, even when it didn't seem that they would be able to do so.

All in all, it was a very good movie staffed by an excellent cast. My only complaint, and it was a small on I'm certainly not a psychiatrist, but my understanding is that taking someone back to a traumatic experience is the beginning of treatment, not, as the movie would lead you to believe, the ending. Also, the idea of a psychiatrist recommending murder is quite disturbing.

I don't think this is a movie I'll be re-watching with any regularity, but it was enjoyable. I won't turn it off if I happen to flip across it.

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