There are all these rules for commercial film-making that come out of USC, mostly from the same set of teachers, during the era when Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and all those soon to be moneymakers were attending. “Don't finish an argument onscreen” is one, “Don't have characters curse at each other” and “imply who's right, don't show” are others. They keep things safe, ambiguous but leading, and defuse intense or unpleasant emotions. Director and writer, LaGravenese didn't go to USC; you can tell. He broke into the big leagues with his script for The Fisher King, which was simultaneously too real and too intensively unrealistic to be a major success, but it was a beautiful and highly regarded film; it makes you feel actual feelings as if you were a genuine human being and not a pre-programmed applause and laughter machine. He's followed that with movies for a range of ages, in different genres, for various demographics, original material and adaptations as this film is, and I can't point to one that wasn't at least good enough to rewatch.
So, here we are with PS I Love You, a dramedy or a romcom or a touchyfeelydeathundlurv movie, depending on which commercial you saw. The movie opens in media res, mid-argument, so you don't know who's right, no magic hands behind the scene have winkingly told you who's right or whose movie this is, and then they finish the argument. They finish the argument and don't part forever or some nonsense, they just – like normal, actual human beings and not constructs for feelgood spielbergia, they have a disagreement and have stopped talking about it to go on with their lives. It's sweet and by introducing us to the characters while both are distressed and aggressively emoting, we feel for both equally, we feel for them, them as a couple, a unit. We are, or at least I was, invested in the couple, then and there, and I'm not worried will they stay together, will they break apart, because they are already, before I ever got near them, a couple, a thing unified.
It's more than nice to see a confident and stable coupling in a movie. It goes against common wisdom, commercial wisdom. It's supposed to provide less drama.
But, this is a movie about loss and moving forward and someone is going to die. If you are like me, when it happens, you won't like it. It's not funny or bittersweet, it's death. Death sucks, even when you make the best of it, as they characters learn when a bartender (Harry Connick Jr) compliments a specially designed urn by saying he had to bury his dog in a stereo box and goes on to point out he lost his fiancee to his ex girlfriend and business partner, by trying to get them both in bed with him simultaneously. As the movie progresses, it's clearer that this isn't only a flick about loss, but also about appreciating what you have as you have it, as it is, while never completely blocking yourself off from looking out, as well, to the future.