I’m not here to defend the accent. you can have that. i won’t say i love you in postscript, gerard butler-whose real accent will remain a secret until the day he dies-comes well irish. while it’s much better than critics gave it credit for, that’s not a hill I’ll get hurt on, let alone die. but I have to defend one of the most unfairly libelous movies of the last 20 years, not of all time.
ps i love you is based on cecelia ahern’s novel of the same name. It’s about Holly (Hilary Swank) trying to get by after Ella’s husband Gerry (Ella’s butler) dies at age 30 from a brain tumor. It doesn’t sound like a thigh-busting thing, which is what makes her success all the more fantastic.
Going back to the movie, I basically start crying around 12 minutes. A long first scene shows Holly and Gerry arguing as they walk into their too-small New York apartment, unconsciously undressing for bed as they snap and argue. the argument and reconciliation, which Empire described as “one of the worst scenes of the year”, is absolutely believable: the frustration of the parallel conversations that intersect; the extraordinary way the couple reconcile, kissing breathlessly by way of apology. Knowing that Gerry will be dead soon paints these moments a sickly gray, and the sentimental trap of pretending the relationship was perfect is cleverly avoided.
there is a peculiar snobbery that colors the reception of movies like ps I love you. It’s about love, I think. there can be immense self-satisfaction in peeing on movies that honestly try to capture the ugly ecstasy of all-consuming love. In a review for The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw labeled this film about a woman trying to deal with the crippling pain of losing the love of her life a “high concept necrophiliac” label. Richard Curtis once noted that his films are criticized for being unrealistic, but “if you make a movie about a soldier who goes missing and murders a pregnant nurse, something that probably happened once in history, it’s called a realistic analysis of the society”. You don’t have to like curtis or ps i love you to see the point of it. This doesn’t mean that all movies about love are good (Ryan Murphy’s prom proves it), but it’s harder to admit that you were moved by a tender portrayal of love than it is to say that a series about gangsters is good. Back in 2007, it was great to make fun of romantic comedies, especially ones that dared to say more than one thing.
another strange critique of postscript: i love you was that it varies a lot in tone. By scoring an easy point, this indictment missed something blindingly obvious: life also varies strangely and wildly in tone. if it didn’t vary in tone, the film would be unrelentingly depressing. that’s one of the points of the movie: even if you’re at the bottom of a barrel of misery, contemplating your husband’s death, humor will find you. at every funeral someone is desperately trying to hold back a fart.
To paint the film as a strange romance between a living woman and a dead man is to deliberately misrepresent it. It’s not just because of the morbid cloud hanging over the movie that the flashbacks of Holly and Gerry meeting for the first time almost brought tears to my eyes. they are also rose-tinted representations of the blossoming of love, magnificently realized. meeting the couple in their 30s and then rewinding 10 years is smart: when they say goodbye after that first meeting, we know they will see each other again. But Gerry doesn’t know, and the agonized longing in her eyes is all too convincing.
I write about bad movies from time to time. one of the things that unites them, I think, is that they get a completely different response from their audience than they intended. ps I love you does exactly the opposite. it’s heartbreaking when it wants to be heartbreaking and hilarious when it wants to be hilarious. in what sense it is supposed to be a bad movie remains a mystery.
There are times when the majority is right. but, as 2016 taught us, there are times when it’s wrong. it was also wrong in 2007. i’m not pretending ps i love you is the godfather. It’s better than that (I’m kidding). but there is as much skill in making people laugh and cry as there is in making people touch their chins in approval. and no amount of snobbery can disguise that.
ps, I love this movie.
ps i love you is available on hbo max in the us and on amazon prime and netflix in the uk