P.S. I Love You (12A)

A strange romance brings grief to the karaoke set
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P.S. I Love You is one of the few romantic comedies to have a corpse as a leading man. Adapted from Cecelia Ahern's chick-lit hit, it stars Hilary Swank as Holly, a brittle New Yorker who can't decide what to do with her life now that her 30th birthday is looming. She isn't even sure whether to stick with her free-spirited husband, Gerry (Gerard Butler), but the decision is taken out of her hands by his fatal brain tumour.

There's a wake to establish just how much Gerry loved whisky, music and all the other things that Irishmen love in films, and then Holly locks herself in her apartment for weeks on end, singing along to Judy Garland, and rejecting all offers of help from her tutting mother, Kathy Bates, and her Bridget-Jones-alike gal pals, Lisa Kudrow and Gina Gershon.

But three months later, on Holly's birthday no less, she receives the first in a series of letters which her dead hubby secretly wrote in his final weeks, and arranged to have delivered to her at intervals in the year after his death. Each note contains instructions as to what Holly should do to help her to move on from her grief.

At this point it's hard to say which man is the more creepy, the dead husband who tries to manipulate Holly from beyond the grave, or Harry Connick Jnr as a dim-witted bartender who fixes the widow with a predatory stare at the wake. But Richard LaGravenese, the film's writer-director, seems determined to treat the questionable premise more sensibly and less schmalt-zily than he could have done.

P.S. I Love You is unashamedly a chick flick, from the top of its dishevelled hairdo to the soles of its fetishised designer shoes, but it's low on pratfalls and wacky misunderstandings, and the saccharine concept is seasoned by some well-acted, vinegary scepticism. Before the viewer has time to object to Gerry's posthumous postal campaign, LaGravenese puts those objections into the mouths of his characters.

P.S. I Love You has some integrity, as high-concept rom-coms go, but it's a pity it's so long. Every scene keeps going for several minutes after we've got the gist, and Swank does so much karaoke that the whole enterprise could be a pretext to launch her singing career.

However, if you've got a big box of tissues, a bigger box of chocolates, and plenty of time on your hands, there are worse ways to spend two hours and three minutes.