Directed by Steven Spielberg, Always is a 1989 romantic comedy/drama starring Richard Dreyfuss as an aerial firefighter who is killed while trying to save someone else and who then comes back as a spirit to guide another pilot in his life.
Loosely based on WWII drama A Guy Named Joe, Always tends to be one of Spielberg's most forgotten films mostly due to the fact it's arguably his cheesiest effort so those not too keen on sentimental stories or those expecting an action film won't exactly go wild for this one. Having said that, this is still a gorgeous-looking film with a lot going for it. The criminally underrated Richard Dreyfuss is at his most charming and cocky here as reckless pilot Pete who constantly worries his girlfriend Dorinda (played by Holly Hunter) with his careless flying. Pete almost crashes on her birthday and, while this leads to a heartfelt romantic moment, it also leads to Dorinda giving him an ultimatum to get him to stop risking his life at every turn. Unfortunately, while trying to save his best friend Al (an excellent John Goodman), his luck finally runs out and he dies.
The film then takes an unexpected turn as Pete wakes up in the spirit world where Audrey Hepburn, of all people, explains to him that he passed away and has to go back to mentor another person in order to move on to Heaven. This supernatural twist could have easily made the film too silly to take seriously but it works as you see Pete struggle with seeing his girlfriend hurt after his death and eventually consider moving on. Always is an old-fashioned, melodramatic exploration of love and grieving and although the romance is the main focus, the firefighting scenes are genuinely intense and the film tries to stay upbeat throughout despite the downer subject matter. It's a shame that the script isn't quite good enough to deliver the laughs and tears the story aims for leaving the film, ironically, stuck in a kind of dramatic purgatory.
While perhaps too melodramatic for many, Always is still very much a Spielberg film so you can at least expect beautiful cinematography, gripping action sequences and strong performances. It lacks the emotional punch it really should have had but it remains a well-made film that's worth checking out at least once and is far more competent than the more popular rom-com ghost movie Ghost.
Decent romantic drama.