Made for the BBC's feature film arm, Screen Two, Truly Madly Deeply (1990) marked the feature debut of writer-director Anthony Minghella, after a successful career in television and theatre.
The film is ostensibly a story of love surviving beyond the grave, in a mini-genre which includes Here Comes Mr Jordan (US, 1941), The Ghost Goes West (d. René Clair, 1935) and Ghost (US, 1990). But Minghella's story, in which a young translator is so overcome by the death of her lover that he comes back, is really a metaphor for the grieving process (although it is just as effective if taken literally). Nina (Juliet Stevenson) is initially overjoyed at Jamie's (Alan Rickman) return, but his presence allows her to deal with her grief until finally she is ready to move on, to a new relationship with art therapist Mark (Michael Maloney).
What keeps the film from sentimental whimsy are the highly sympathetic performances from Stevenson and Rickman, who imbue their characters with real warmth and tenderness, and some nice light comic elements, including Jamie's constant sneezing and complaints about the cold, and the group of film-obsessed ghosts who invade Nina's house (in place of the rats who had been her previous uninvited guests) and commandeer her video player.
The overwhelmingly comfortable middle-class setting - in North London's leafy Highgate - occasionally grates, particularly when contrasted with the characters' worthy liberalism: at one point Nina berates a café owner for paying his immigrant staff a 'criminal' £4 an hour - at a time when there was no legal minimum wage, and many such workers would have been lucky to get a third of that amount. The same scene points up the film's political meekness, introducing an intriguing confrontation then dispelling the tension with a spontaneous 'magic' display from the slightly cloying Mark. But, for all this, the film largely carries off its conceit with warmth, humour and some genuinely moving scenes.