In the same way that Groundhog Day is an almost perfect romantic comedy, this is an almost perfect romance for those who prefer their love stories straight up, without the twist of lemon. (I say “almost” perfect because I don’t really believe in perfection, but I couldn’t tell you a thing wrong with either film.) It would have been good anyway, but what really raises it above your run-of-the-mill beyond-the-grave romance is the presence of Whoopi Goldberg as Oda Mae Brown. When Patrick Swayze is killed and can’t interact with the real world he finds that she, a penny-ante grifting “spiritualist” who has never talked to a spirit in her life, is the only one who can hear him. And she doesn’t like it one little bit. The comic possibilities are endless, and she takes advantage of all of them. She won a Supporting Actress Oscar for this, and it was certainly deserved.
For the tragic part of the equation Demi Moore does a good job, though it must have been hard because she is crying almost all her time on screen. It was written by Bruce Joel Rubin, who also won an Oscar. Surprisingly, it was directed by Jerry Zucker of the Zucker brothers, famous before this for making Airplane! and Ruthless People. This could hardly be more different than those two.
Two other elements that should be mentioned are the pottery and the music. The sensuality of throwing a clay pot seemed to me to really enhance the romance, and the use of a really, really romantic theme song, Unchained Melody, lifts it to another level. To sum up, if you can’t deal with tear-jerking sentimentality, stay away from this one. But if you are like me, and don’t mind shedding a wistful tear or two if the writer, director, and actors have earned them honestly, you won’t find many better than this.