A cop and a congresswoman find solace in each other after their cheating partners perish in a plane crash.
A further attempt by its star Ford to distance himself from his calling card hardman heroics, Random Hearts ekes romance out of the not particularly cuddly arena of aviation catastrophe. The result may be flawed, yet it is never facile, daring to treat a soap opera scenario with gravitas and intelligence.
Internal Affairs sergeant Dutch Van Den Broeck (Ford, reuniting with director Pollack after the much lighter lovefest Sabrina), and high-flying congresswoman Kay Chandler (Scott-Thomas) are pitched together after discovering their spouses were not only killed in an airline disaster, but were also conducting a clandestine fling.
Van Den Broeck explores every minute detail of the infidelity, while Chandler wants it buried for the sake of her political prospects and 15 year-old daughter. A growing attachment develops and both face up to issues of grieving loyalty versus newfound affection.
Pollack imbues the aftermath of the crash with a well-mounted sense of confusion and horror, and charts Van Den Broeck's immersion into his wife's affair with engrossing attention to detail. Once the pair strike up a relationship, the film proffers enough messy emotion to keep the attention - Pollack creates a rare romantic drama that has edges and ideas skewering its central relationship.
On the down side, Dave Grusin's score is misplaced and the film is beset by ponderous pacing and protracted plotting: an offshoot involving Van Den Broeck's investigation of a corrupt cop, partly designed to illustrate an emerging inability to trust, feels superfluous, and once the couple have discovered the truth about their own feelings, the film lacks direction, perhaps never mining its emotional core as well as it might.
Yet, perhaps because of this lack of histrionics, Random Hearts engages and convinces. Within a storyline set up for mawkishness, Pollack staves off sentiment, coating the film in cold, muted colours and coaxing performances with admirable restraint; Scott-Thomas doesn't overplay her career woman in crisis thing (witness The Horse Whisperer), believably etching Kay's vulnerability, whereas Ford's bottled-up stoicism is used to strong effect, nailing Van Den Broeck's sense of loss, betrayal and obsession.
Engaging film that does not resort to morbid self pity but instead draws the viewer in with some subtle performances from it's leads.