Then She Found Me


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Helen Hunt did it all in this chick-flick. She co-produced, co-wrote (adapting a novel), directed, and starred in this film about a woman facing a series of mid-life crises.

April Epner is a 39-year-old teacher in a New York elementary school, disappointed that she has never become pregnant, but still hopeful. Her hopes are dashed somewhat by the fact that her juvenile husband has decided to leave her in order to go back to his mother's house. Within a couple of days her own adoptive mother dies.

If that sounds like the setting for a tragedy, it is not. It is the death necessary for a rebirth. The film is actually a dramedy. The death of her mother is soon followed by the appearance of her eccentric birth mother, about whom she had previously known nothing. In the next stage of renascence, her bumbling husband is soon replaced in her bed by a handsome, sensitive Englishman who is the father of one of her students.

That sounds good on the surface, but life is complicated, and this is a film about life. April betrays her new love by having break-up sex with her husband, and this results in something they could never achieve before - a pregnancy. When they go to the first ultrasound, they are so moved by the experience that they promptly have sex again. The Englishman is in the process of recovering from having been abandoned with two children by his own wife, and does not react well to April's assorted betrayals. He gets through the first incident and accepts the resulting pregnancy, but the second one understandably drives him off. April's birth mother, meanwhile, is a blustering talk show host who charges into April's life like a rhinoceros, and fails to provide candid answers to her daughter's questions about the circumstances of her conception and birth. The conclusion of the film is about April's mother begging April for forgiveness for her mistakes past and present, while April in turn is begging for forgiveness from her new boyfriend.

There's a lot of excellent material in this film and some very good moments closely observed. Despite the seemingly unrealistic chain of dramatic developments in April's life (I've omitted many of the details, which start to pile up like a yearly synopsis of Days of Our Lives), the film succeeds in developing three characters who are completely distinct, interesting, and believable: April (Helen Hunt), the Englishman (Colin Firth), and the birth mother (Bette Midler). They rarely resorted to clichés, each of them being intelligent, thoughtful,  and complicated enough to express thoughts in a witty and/or interesting way. Each of them speaks as if written by a separate author. That's a good thing. It means that they are all real characters, not extensions of the author, and the script could turn any one of them into the central character with only slight twists of perspective.

That alone should earn our respect. I often write that it would be nice to see movies about realistic, complicated people in genuine situations, but such movies rarely appear. Hollywood's concept of "realistic" is to create a maverick cop from another planet who doesn't have any super powers. The Hollywood concept of "'complicated" is that the vampire feels really bad when he kills people, so he tries only to kill bad men. In the typical Sundance-type independent movie, realism is another word for "junkie." It is only in the more experimental mumblecore indie movies where there really are ordinary people doing ordinary things. Unfortunately, it is not possible for audiences to stay awake while those things are being done. Given all that, I am always ready to applaud when a film can hold my attention with three ordinary people facing real life with no super powers nor drug addiction nor weapons. Bravo to Helen Hunt for accomplishing that.

The film is not without its flaws. The character of April's husband (Matthew Broderick) is badly underwritten. We hear that he is childish, but we don't get any understanding of why, and we might not even know the problem existed if the script didn't keep reminding us verbally. We hear that he has uncanny power over April, and we can see that he exerts uncommon sexual magnetism whenever he is near her, but we don't "get" that either. Matthew Broderick is always sympathetic on camera, but his alleged sexual power is absolutely mystifying. The character seems soft in the head, and carries himself like the kind of guy who would date a woman for months before finding the courage to hold her hand. Furthermore, I still have absolutely no idea why he wanted to leave April to go back to his mother in the first place. His motivation was entirely unconvincing and, for that matter, entirely unknown.

The film's other main liability is a tendency to "pile on" - primarily with one dramatic development after another, but also with a series of emotion-milking, heart-tugging moments which aren't even related to the central storylines.

Those problems tend to drag the film down a bit, but I enjoyed the three central characters, and that made the film a winner in my book. Like Hunt herself, the film is practical and down to earth. There are no fancy visual stylings in the direction, and the script is a straightforward chronological narrative. This film will produce neither prestigious awards nor big box office results, but it will demonstrate to the industry that Hunt has the ability to connect with audiences from behind the camera as well as facing it.


* widescreen








1.5 James Berardinelli (of 4 stars)
54 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)
56 (of 100)








6.5 IMDB summary (of 10)







Box Office Mojo. It was distributed to the arthouse circuit, reaching 153 theaters, grossing a bit over $3 million.








  • Helen Hunt is seen topless, but no nipple is visible.
  • She is also seen very briefly in a diaphanous nightgown with her nipples visible beneath.





Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a: