was directed by Kenneth Branagh
in 1991. He and his (now ex-) wife Emma Thompson
co-starred in the film as private investigator Mike Church and artist-with-amnesia Amanda Sharp. The cast also included Derek Jacobi
as the antiques dealer/hypnotist Franklyn Madison; Andy Garcia
as Gray Baker, a journalist, and Robin Williams
as Doctor Cozy Carlisle, a semi-out-of-work psychiatrist who works stocking a grocery
store to pay the bills.
It's a sweet, touching, funny, on the edge of your seat, unpredictable, wonderful movie. It's going in my 'to buy' list immediately. I'm a huge Branagh fan, which is why I picked it up, and I was not disappointed. It outdid any expectations I had of it and kept me guessing till the very end. I highly recommend it, and I'm usually hard this sort of movie because of my... err... religious views. It made a solid philosophy of reincarnation, not just treating it like a gimmick, but making it feasible.
The movie begins with black and white shots of newspaper clippings talking about one Roman Strauss, who is accused, convicted, and executed for stabbing his wife Margaret with a pair of barber's shears. As this scene, which also includes Roman talking to journalist Baker, ends, a redheaded woman jolts awake from her nightmare--for that's all it was, her nightmare--and screams, clutching her throat. These screams are the only noise she makes, though. She seems unable to speak, and on top of that, she's lost her memory, it's soon revealed, and has spent the past two nights at a nunnery. The Father has no idea what to do with her, and calls up investigator Mike Church (who he believes has an "honest name" and who owes the good Father several favors) to see what he can do to locate this woman's family.
He tries to take her to the mental hospital downtown, but after seeing it, he can't stand to leave her there. A photographer/journalist friend of his takes her picture and runs it in the paper. In the middle of what seems like endless calls claiming to know the still-silent woman, a mild-mannered man in a grey suit shows up. He's Franklyn Madison, and is a hypnotist. He sends her back to the memory that's blocking her speech, and she again snaps out of the trance screaming. Mike sets up an appointment to see him again tomorrow to see what progress can be made.
They walk into the utterly funny scene where an old woman is talking, in a little-girl voice, about "uncle Teddy", because apparently in her youth she had some ties to the former President. Madison asks her questions about rare, valuable furniture she'd have encountered as a child, and she tells him. It becomes clear this is how he runs the antique shop part of his business. He awakens her by telling her that she won't remember a bit of the session, but that her chocolate craving should be gone.
Now it's the female lead's turn (she still has no name), and he places her under hypnosis, asks her to describe her environment, and tell her when it was. She says it was 1944, but it's obvious she's too young to have been born then. As she reveals more, it appears she's remembering the life story of Margaret Straus, the murdered pianist from the initial scenes. The hypnotist believes it's past life memories, that she WAS Margaret previously. She awakens believing she probably is Margaret, and someone (Roman?) is after her again this time. Mike is more doubtful and seeks a second opinion--Robin William's character--who says the same thing, that it sounds like a past life to him. Oddly enough, having worked past the memory this far, she's regained her voice, but not her present-life memories.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. The rest of this node is a full summary of the rest of the movie, so don't read on if you don't want it ruined.
Mike has begun to fall for this mysterious and confused
woman, and takes her out for a night
on the town, and names her "Grace" until she recalls her own name. While it doesn't go exactly as he planned, she starts to warm up to him a lot too, and they end the night dancing in the rain
on the roof of his apartment. They collapse on his couch
, she insisting it'll ruin it, he saying "it's already ruined!" She recoils a bit, saying "that's exactly what happened with Margaret and Roman!" and he emphatically insists "but I'm not Roman!"
The next morning, they're in for an unpleasant surprise as a young man claiming to be her fiancé shows up and tries to take her off. She doesn't remember a thing about him, but he can identify things like her medicine made her lose her memory, her ring was an Irish wedding ring, and she dropped a glove on her way out, as he presents a glove that matches one she had with her. He starts to lead her off, with she confused and scared, until Mike realizes the gloves weren't a pair; they were two of the same hand. He chases the man, but loses him when it turns out the other man knows some martial arts and stuns Mike until he can escape.
Back in the hypnotist's office, Madison suggests they speed up the process, due to that day's unfortunate events. She remembers more, and finally states that Mike was there when she was killed. She firmly believes Mike IS Roman, but he denies it, disbelieving. Madison says there's one easy way to deal with this, to regress Mike as well. If he turns up somewhere else, he's not Roman. Mike grudgingly agrees, and places himself in the same house--"his" house--that "Grace" remembers. He wakes up, she looks shocked and scared, but he still insists that no, they haven't heard "the whole story" and still believes he's just NOT Roman. Mike's friend comes in just now with "Grace"s wallet, having found her real identity--Amanda. He and Madison escort her home to her studio, where they find she's repainted classics with scissors in the motifs. Madison recommends she NOT see or speak to Mike again because one will kill the other at this point, and gives Amanda a gun if words don't work. It's due to fate, he says, that Mike is still violent and will attack again. When Mike's friend from the paper insists that Mike has never been like that, Madison says that fate only works the way it does because people keep saying "things will be different this time".
Grace wanders through her apartment, not recognizing a thing, thinking over her memories to this point, which start at the courtship and marriage of Roman and Margaret. They met when he was conducting an orchestra she was playing in, and soon fell for each other. (It also becomes clear at this point that Roman's house is now the convent to which Margaret wandered in her daze.) On their wedding night, he gives her an anklet he bought off a peddler. Aside from being worth a fortune, it supposedly has the power to bind two souls together for lifetime upon lifetime. Their wedding is idyllic and perfect for a while, but begins to deteriorate as he suspects her of having an affair with Baker. Roman is also having problems with money and his composing, but he refuses to tell her. There are also problems with the hired help, Inge and her stuttering son Frankie. They helped rescue Roman when he fled Europe, but Margaret suspects Frankie of stealing her things, and Inge is just uncooperative with her. The last thing Margaret remembers is hanging up the phone to see Roman come around the corner, and remembers being stabbed shortly thereafter, as she believes in a jealous rage at her having been on the line with Baker.
Mike, in the meantime, goes to see Carlisle (Williams), and talks out the memories. It turns out that his statement, upon awakening of "I'm not Roman!" wasn't meant the way the others took it. He meant that he had the memories, but he was in Margaret's body, NOT Roman's. Amanda was Roman. Carlise explains that gender switching, especially in bonded lovers, is fairly common in reincarnation, and it allows for karmic balance.
Mike returns to his apartment to find a call he placed to Baker, who is still alive, has been returned, and rushes over to see him, because Baker is the only one who knows the truth. For right before Roman was led to his execution, he whispered the answer to "did you kill your wife?" in the reporter's ear. Baker, ancient, in a nursing home, and speaking with a voice box because his nonstop smoking caused him cancer later on, tells Mike the story. Roman never answered the question; he just kissed Baker on the neck, grinned, and left. But Baker did research on his own, and eventually uncovered that it hadn't been Roman at all and if he wanted the whole truth to try to find Inge and Frankie, if they still lived. They had, he'd heard, opened an antiques store. Mike left at a run.
He went over to Madison's place, and broke in. He fins an aged Inge watching television. After some pressure, she tells him the whole story. She was in love with Roman and wanted him for herself. When she finally told him, he said he couldn't love her, he was truly in love with Margaret. She was disappointed, but accepts it. However, Frankie didn't take it nearly as well. He hated Margaret for "getting in the way". She also explained the scene where Margaret was hanging up the phone and Roman suddenly appeared wasn't what it seemed at all. He came in, hugged her, and apologized, and they talked out their problems and patched everything up. Finally happy again, Roman went downstairs and finished the opera he'd struggled with for so long. Frankie couldn't take it any longer and murdered Margaret with the scissors as she lay in bed. Roman didn't hear the noises until it was too late because he was so wrapped up in his composing. When he found her dead, he cradled her body and picked up the weapon to see what happened. He was arrested and found guilty because his prints were on the scissors, and Frankie's were not because the boy had wiped them off previously. Frankie's stammer got worse and worse until he saw a hypnotherapist in Europe who cured his stutter, at which point he became obsessed with hypnosis and past lives. Inge gave Mike the anklet, and he left to see Amanda and tell her the truth.
She tries to return to her show, but Madison--Franklyn, Frankie Madison--turns it back off and tells her it's time for her to go to bed. He gently tucks her in, kisses his mother goodnight, and as she drifts off, smothers her with a pillow.
Mike is now at Amanda's place and trying to get in. He enters and tries to explain, show her the anklet, but she's so afraid at Madison's warning she shoots Mike in the shoulder. As he falls, she sees the anklet in his hand. Scared and confused, she doesn't know what to do as Frankie enters the room. She says "I shot him!" and Frankie says "good, less work for little Frankie!" She then tries to shoot him, but the gun misfires and he grins "antiques. Tisk!" He knocks her out and tries to stage it so it looks like she stabbed Mike to death with the same scissors used 50 years ago. As he prepares to shoot Amanda in the mouth (to look like a suicide), Mike comes to and stabs Frankie in the knee. Amanda recovers the gun, but loses it shortly thereafter. At this moment Mike's friend walks in with a pizza. Frankie, suddenly scared, regains his childhood stutter but manages to get out "I sh.sh.sh.shall be ver... ver... very... in..interested t.t.t.to ssssee wh.what happens next!" as he dives for the gun. He shoots at her but is tackled from behind. As he chases Amanda and Mike down, he leaps over a balcony at them, firing. Mike quickly moves one of Amanda's pieces--scissors made from sheet metal underneath Frankie and he impales himself as he falls.
Amanda/Roman and Mike/Margaret rush to hug each other, and the film ends with them--both pairs of them, as the faces blend into each other--sharing a very loving kiss.