One of my earliest film going experiences was to a beautiful old theater in Orinda, California to see The Rocketeer. It was a lousy movie, but I fell for Jennifer Connelly anyways. When I got my first TiVo in the early 2000’s, I immediately made use of the wishlists to try and see all of Jennifer Connelly’s films. During the winter of 2003 I found this gem waiting for me on my TiVo.
Even though Jennifer Connelly is in the film, it’s really Patrick Dempsey’s movie. He plays Michael who is invited to spend Christmas break with his girlfriend Gabriella and her family. She had gone home from college to French Canada because her grandmother was sick. He sets this story up for us via some voice-over narration while sitting on a plane. Michael believes that Gabriella has “come to her senses” and that is why he was asked to come. In reality, it’s not the relationships with Gabriella, her two sisters, her mother, or her nude Blaise Pascal biographer father, but the one he forms with Granny that is at the center of the film.
We first meet Granny when the family goes to the hospital to see her and Michael stumbles upon her in the hall. She appears to recognize him and even calls him by name. It turns out that he shares the same name as her late husband. When Granny runs away into the wilderness, the family goes after her. Michael is the one who finds her and while his connections to Gabriella and the rest of the family are fizzling out, a special bond is forming between him and Granny.
Granny ran away from the hospital because she wanted to go to a special place she had shared with her husband many years before. In the present, she ends up sharing that place and the memories with Michael. The bond is short lived though, and Granny passes away soon after their time together. However, Michael briefly meets her again as a young woman after the funeral.
The film is setup and has the trappings of an 1980’s teenage sex/coming of age comedy, but it subverts that with the pairing of Michael and Granny. It’s far from a perfect film, but it always gets me when Michael finds the shoes Granny had placed in a tree many years before. He takes those shoes home with him at the end of the film as a reminder of why the trip was important. It’s one of those films that probably means more to me than it should and much more than it would to others, but that’s why it’s on this list.