91 minutes| U.S.A.| 2010| Colour| D-Cinema

A glittering array of acting roles behind him, Philip Seymour Hoffman makes his cinema directing debut with this tender character study following a reserved 40-something’s tentative steps towards new romance. As you might expect, the result is very much focused on the performances, which are first-rate across the board, not just from Hoffman himself as tightly-wound limo driver Jack and Amy Ryan, the shy mortician’s secretary and object of his affections. Indeed, John Ortiz very nearly steals the show as the protagonist’s philosophising best buddy, who’s one half of a couple curdling into bitterness by the day. This element of the story provides a reality check to counter the touching optimism of Hoffman, who learns new swimming and cooking skills to impress the girl as the big night looms ever closer.

True, the piece’s theatrical origins (where Hoffman directed most of the same actors) are much in evidence, yet the expert cast’s compassion and insight define this small-scale charmer. (Notes by Trevor Johnston.)

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