Return to Me (2000)
The film opens with a loving husband and wife preparing for a very important fund raising dinner. The evening ends with the loss of the wife. In a hospital a weak young woman who may die soon if she can not get a new heart. Jump ahead one year the young woman received a heart and is trying to adjust to a life no longer counted by hours or days, she can actually make plans. The grieving husband and his dog are still trying to adjust to life without his wife. His friends keep trying to pry him from his "work is my life" existence by setting him up on blinds dates. Finally he actually shows up for one at an Irish-Italian restaurant where he finds himself more attracted to the waitress than his blind date. He finds an excuse to return to the restaurant in hopes of seeing the waitress again, there's just something attractive about her. Unknown to both the attraction they both feel for one another is Grace has the heart of Bob's dead wife. What can you say after that! Carroll O'Connor says exactly the right thing to Bob after he finds out this ironic coincidence.
Bob Rueland, a Chicago building contractor, cherishes life with his veterinarian wife until she is tragically killed in an automobile accident. Meanwhile the family and friends of Grace Briggs, a waitress at a local Italian restaurant, are overjoyed when they learn that Grace will finally get a replacement heart (the heart of Bob's wife). Both Bob and Grace struggle to maintain normal lives after these traumatic events, until fate intervenes and brings them together.
In this comedy-drama which shows us how the tragic death of one human being can still save the life of another, a happily-married man (David Duchovny) is struck with tragedy when his wife (Joely Richardson) dies from complications of a car accident. In her death, however, another is given life, as another young woman (Minnie Driver) with an ailing heart is given a transplant. Finally able to live a normal, happy life for the first time in years, she joins her grandfather in helping to run an Irish-themed restaurant, where she meets the widower, never imagining that the heart beating in her chest belonged to his wife. They slowly fall madly in love with each other, but when she learns the shocking truth, she is torn by whether or not she should let him know about the transplant she received and who it came from.
A man who falls in love with the woman who received his wife's heart must decide which woman it is who holds his heart.
- Bob Rueland (David Duchovny) and his wife Elizabeth (Joely Richardson) are deeply in love. She is a dedicated animal psychologist specializing in great apes, who has for 16 years worked with a gorilla at the Chicago zoo. Bob is a builder, and he is very committed to a project to build a wonderful new gorilla exclosure at the zoo, to his wife's design.
Grace Briggs (Minnie Driver) is an orphan who has been brought up by her devoted grandfather Marty O'Reilly (Carroll O'Connor) who is proprietor of an Italian restaurant, the chef being Marty's dear friend Angelo Pardipillo (Robert Loggia). Grace's great friend is Megan Dayton (Bonnie Hunt), married to the chauvisnistic but clumsily chivalrous Joe (James Belushi). Grace has a weak heart, caused by incurable disease, and needs a transplant.
One night, after a gala with guest in evening dress, Elizabeth is fatally injured and dies in the hospital. She's a donor and her heart is transplanted into Grace. Bob is devastated and so is Elizabeth's dog Mel, which pines for her in their apartment hallway for months. During this time Grace gradually recovers from surgery with her new heart, and after much thought writes a letter to the donor family of her heart, for forwarding by the donor/transplant agency as the arrangement is anonymous. Grace creates a garden full of varied flowers, in Marty's back hard in the city; and she paints pictures, of the city scene around her but also of scenes of an Italian city, though she has never been abroad. She gets around the city on her bicycle, and often visits Megan. They go with Megan's children to the zoo, and --- mysteriously, because he doesn't do it for anybody else --- the gorilla comes over and gives Grace a "high-five" with his hand on the divider through which visitors look at him. Grace even passes close to Bob in the crowd around the existing gorilla enclosure, and he seems to experience some frisson as though he can feel Elizabeth's heart still beating but now inside Grace.
At last, after a year or so, one of Bob's best friends Charlie Johnson (David Alan Grier) persuades him to come out on a foursome date. Charlie is a veterinary expert at the zoo, involved with the care of the gorilla. On top of all his other projects (on which he is always the man in charge of the whole operation), Bob has been working intensively on the new gorilla enclosure and has been seeing a lot of Charlie, who also knew Elizabeth very well but has grown increasingly concerned about Bob's state of mind since her death. The place they pick for the four-way date, about which Bob is still doubtful, is O'Reilly's Italian restaurant. Bob turns up late and is dismayed by the fussy, bossy personality of the woman who is his blind date; however he is rather taken with Grace, who comes to take their order. He even asks her whether they have met somewhere. Bob finally contrives a mobile phone call and claims he must rush back to work on one of his projects which has hit a crisis needing him on site immediately although it's late. Grace gives him a dinner to take away, and he escapes to eat it on his own. He leaves his mobile phone on the counter and only realizes the next day that he has mislaid it. He goes back the next night after hours, and is greeted by Mary, Angelo and their two elderly friends, one of whom is the apple in the eye of O'Reilly's other waitress, the amply proportioned Sophie (Marianne Muellerleile). These four repeatedly debate the relative merits of Sammy Davis, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, and play cards.
Grace has gone to bed and is unaware that Bob has arrived in the now closed restaurant. She goes downstairs in her dressing gown and shower cap, and is horrified to find Bob there seeing her en deshabille. However Bob is undisturbed and, as he helps her cover the flowers in her precious garden against an expected gale, asks her out the next evening.
The couple are in love but Grace gets increasingly obsessed with the idea that he must not find out she has had heart surgery. Then, on first being invited back to his apartment, she discovers her own letter "to the donor family" on his deak, and realizes this is the man whose dead wife's heart is now inside her. She goes to pieces, takes the letter, and leaves. Bob goes to see her and she shows him the letter. This time, it is Bob who leaves abruptly.
All this time, Grace has had an airline ticket to Italy which Marty got for her. The next time Bob calls, she says she is going away, to Italy, to paint. Bob presents her with a new bright red bicycle, and she takes it to Italy with her. But, sitting in her room or with her easel on a rooftop with her artist's easel in front of her, she thionks only of Bob and can't get anything done. An avuncular Italian waiter comes and offers her refreshment. WHen she declines he offers to listen to her story.
Meanwhile Bob is distracted, can't concentrate on his work, and the next thing we see he is on an Italian street. That morning, Grace encounters a trio of nuns who admire her beautiful red bicycle. She offers one a ride on it. Off the nun pedals into the crowd. The scene shifts to Bob, a little way off in the same town, who finds himself looking at random at cyclists as they speed past him. Then a nun comes by, and he thinks he recognizes the bike so he runs after her. We go back to Grace and the other two nuns; when the third returns on the bike, she is riding on the fron and a man is behind her pedalling. It is Bob. Grace is so moved that he flew all the way to Italy to find her. (They have only been separated a few days.)
Back in the USA the gorilla enclosure has a grand opening. Then at O'Reilly's there is a wedding: it is Sophie and Wally getting hitched.