I went trope fishing with The Lost Husband and caught a quietly charming one.
I love fishing, and when sitting down to select movies in this day and age, it’s a lot like that. Instead of fishing for trout, you are ultimately come up with trope after trope that you keep tossing back. When I started The Lost Husband, I began to fear it was going to trip face-first into Nicholas Sparks territory. To my surprise, its romantic elements take a back seat for more time than I could have hoped. I may have reeled in a trope with a healthy dose of sentimentality, but at least I caught a quietly charming one.
The Lost Husband tells a story of a widow, Libby (Tag’s Leslie Bibb) who loses her husband Danny (Grey’s Anatomy’s Kevin Alejandro) and left her broke with two children to take care of. After overstaying her welcome with her mom (NYPD Blue’s Sharon Lawrence), she stays with her aunt Jean (Nora Dunn) who owns a goat farm in Texas that all the rich housewives love to buy at the local farmer’s market. Of course, the farm is equipped with handsome farmhand with some wispy grey in his air who stays in an even handsomer silver airstream across the front of the farmhouse, named James (Josh Duhamel).
Director Vicki Wight‘s film was adapted from a novel of the same name by Katherine Center and avoids a lot of egregious romantic pitfalls most films of this genre tend to cannonball through. Yes, it has enough sentimentality and melodrama to spare but pushes the romance between Bibb and Duhamel’s characters to the back burner to concentrate more on Libby’s own autonomy. She is immature, slightly spoiled, and trying to climb her way out of the depression she has found herself in after her husband’s passing.
The flaws are the type you accept going to a film like this. There is limited insight into Libby’s mental health issues or the kids for that matter. It has a very unnecessary back story plot twist that is sorely out of place. Bibb’s turn is a tad overdone but settles nicely as the movie moves along. Sharon Lawrence’s limited screen time is over the top, with her cold, frigid mothering.
The film has a quiet, grounded charm that covers up many of these flaws — including, again, such an unnecessary back story plot twist. When Bibb’s character questions Jean telling them there is work to do on a holiday, her response is the real world when films tend to favor the big-city folk that looked forward to getting away for a long holiday weekend. It’s a better quality of life, slow-paced, where you can enjoy a party at a local country bar, and celebrate birthdays where the only rule is you can’t buy the gift, just make one. It’s a nice role for Dunn, who isn’t utilized enough in projects.
The real star here is Duhamel, who is effortlessly charming while at the same time being a scruffy mess. Their romance isn’t forced like many of this genre, and happens almost organically instead of right away and going through an entire relationship’s ups and downs in 90 to 120 minutes. That aspect, in any romantic drama, is a refreshing change of pace, including not using a romance to have its protagonist pull themselves out of darkness they find themselves in.
The Lost Husband won’t win any awards and may get more flack than is deserved, but it has quietly grounded charm that made it a pleasant surprise in these uncertain times.
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M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.