Richard Dreyfuss is daredevil pilot Pete Sandich, who specialises in putting out forest fires, and Holly Hunter is his girlfriend Dorinda Durston, who loves him, but worries about his safety, particularly as he shows no real caution when flying. Pete is killed in an accident, and in the afterlife he meets an angel (for want of a better word) named Hap, played by Audrey Hepburn in her last film role. Following her advice, he tries to help his girlfriend through her grief, and mentor novice pilot Ted Baker(!), who falls for Dorinda.
I only really wanted to watch this film for Audrey Hepburn’s appearance. She isn’t in the film for long, but her parts are lovely, and who better than Audrey to play a serene angel? She had largely retired from acting at this point, and died four years after this film was made, but it is a fitting role for her swan song.
The film itself was hugely enjoyable, but you will DEFINITELY need tissues, because it is a real tearjerker. Dreyfuss and Hunter are excellent, and the relationship between Pete and Dorinda is really believable. John Goodman provides excellent support as Pete’s friend Al, who tries to look out for Dorinda after Pete’s death. And Brad Johnson plays Ted Baker with sympathy. Although Pete is hearthbroken to think of Dorinda being with someone else, Johnson makes Ted such a nice guy that it’s hard not to root for him too.
This film is a remake of A Guy Named Joe (1943), and there are also similarities with Patrick Swayze/Demi Moore film Ghost, although Always preceded Ghost. (I mean honestly, if Unchained Melody makes you cry because of Ghost, I’m sure that Smoke Gets In Your Eyes will have the same effect after watching Always!)
Overall, this is a beautifully acted, gentle and emotional film. As mentioned earlier, I watched it purely because of Audrey Hepburn, but it is well worth seeing on its own merits. I definitely recommend it.
Year of release: 1989
Director: Steven Spielberg
Producers: Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Richard Vane
Writers: Jerry Belson, Dalton Trumbo (screenplay ‘A Guy Named Joe’), Frederick Hazlitt Brennan (screenplay adaptation ‘A Guy Named Joe’), Chandler Sprague (story ‘A Guy Named Joe’), David Boehm (story ‘A Guy Named Joe’)
Main cast: Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter, John Goodman, Brad Johnson, Audrey Hepburn