Before you find yourself walking into Then She Found Me, make sure that A - you’re a woman and B - you’re in the mood for one of those low-budget, character-driven dramas about a woman whose life sucks a little bit more than yours. Keeping those parameters in mind, the film is quite compelling, carried by a solid supporting performance from Bette Midler and a story that’s somehow relatable despite some implausible plot twists.
Adapted from the Elinor Lipman novel of the same name, the film opens with the somewhat awkward wedding (is anything not awkward when Helen Hunt is involved?) between 39-year-old April Epner (Hunt) and her co-teacher Ben (Matthew Broderick). They spend a year trying and failing to get pregnant, leading to a major rift in their marriage. Within the span of a week, Ben leaves April, April’s adopted mother passes away, and April’s birth mother Bernice (Bette Midler), suddenly shows up looking for a meaningful relationship. As if things weren’t complicated enough, April finds herself attracted to Frank, the father of one of her students (Colin Firth) and has to learn to balance a new romance while the old one unravels. Not to mention that the entire time her biological clock is ticking LIKE THIS!!!
Hunt served as director and co-writer of the film, and though there are no major flaws with her work behind the camera (save some shoddy sound quality), her writing skills are questionable. While the novel focused almost entirely on the developing relationship between April and Bernice (incidentally the strongest parts of the movie), Hunt gave the film a romantic center leaving the plot feeling forced and rushed. That’s not to say a woman can’t be dumped and fall in love again within twelve hours (although usually those people live in crazy-town), but after less than a month of dating, Frank is already saying I love you and expects April to be a surrogate mother to his children. Firth pulls it off just because he’s so damn charming, but it’s jarring.
Hunt also accentuates April’s need for a child in her adaptation, adding some much-needed depth to a character that is painfully bland for seventy percent of the film. A chunky Broderick is aptly annoying as Ben, though he brings too much Leo Bloom and not enough Ferris Bueller to the role of a perennial heartbreaker. The film is saved by the Divine Miss M, however, who manages to make a compulsive liar who abandoned her child look like mother of the year.
Then She Found Me mostly works because it doesn’t presume to be more than a small budget film with a big heart. Though at times the plot pushes the bounds of plausibility, it still manages to avoid melodrama – an impressive feat considering the subject matter. Ultimately the film’s a find, at least for anyone who enjoys a good chick-flick.
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