P.S. I Love You posits itself as a romantic comedy with a twist, the twist being that the romance takes place largely between a young woman and a man who remains a part of her life even after he dies. But here, instead of Ghost-like visitations, he sends her a series of letters from beyond the grave, intended to help her through the grieving process. Does this sound romantic, or does it sound like stalking? Whatever the case, the big problem with the film is that the letters lack the poetry or imagination to tug on the heartstrings; instead, they seem weirdly controlling and creepy, as if their author is having a harder time letting go than their intended recipient. This may be the first time a dead man would be a good candidate for a restraining order.
The opening scene strikes an unexpected tone of marital distress, as practical-minded New Yorker Hilary Swank gets into a huge fight with her husband, a carefree, impetuous Irishman played by Gerard Butler. One cut past the credits, Swank is attending Butler's wake at a local Irish pub a few years later, surrounded by loved ones, including her friends Gina Gershon and Lisa Kudrow, and her mother Kathy Bates, who never much cared for Butler. On her 30th birthday, Swank receives the first in a series of letters Butler wrote to her before he died, each intended to beckon her out of their cramped apartment and rediscover the world without him. From something as small as taking center stage on karaoke night to something as large as traveling with friends to mother Ireland, Swank does things she would have never considered otherwise. She also starts seeing someone new, a sympathetic barkeep played by Harry Connick, Jr.
Writer-director Richard LaGravenese is known as one of Hollywood's go-to screenwriters, credited or uncredited, but the films he's directed, such as Living Out Loud and Freedom Writers, are memorable more for their terrible titles than any lasting distinction. Working from a novel by Cecelia Ahern, LaGravenese brings some intelligence and maturity to a genre that sorely needs it, but it isn't enough to prop up this long-winded and thoroughly bland romantic comedy. With a cast this stacked, it says something that Harry Connick Jr., the least accomplished actor of the bunch, gives the only lively performance as a well-meaning dope whose sweetness compensates for a severe case of social retardation. For what it's worth, he's far more charming than Butler, but it's no use competing with the dead.