The Lost Husband (2020)

“It’s hard to lose your person and your whole life in a year.”

There’s something so oddly comforting and relaxing about just how small and run of the mill The Lost Husband is from start to finish. And that’s not meant to be a slight either, because while the script is too out of touch with reality to really soar, it proves to be grounded and daring enough to attempt flight, and adventurous enough to even secure temporary liftoff. This is cinema at its most soft-serve state, a pure plain jane vanilla cone you won’t remember hours later but are hardly disappointed with in the moment. Good performances and excellent casting make this the kind of treat you won’t feel bad for indulging.

Refreshingly, this textbook drama opens with a bit of ambiguity, showing the recently widowed Libby (Leslie Bibb) pack up her kids Abby (Callie Hope Haverda) and Tank (Roxton Garcia) to hit the open road, leaving behind a woman named Marsha (Sharon Lawrence) alone at her front door. There’s clear tension in the air, which is cut when the trio land at Jean’s (Nora Dunn) small-town and secluded farmhouse, a very distant far cry from the suburbia they were used to. The Lost Husband tries to hide the nature of the relationships for too long because they’re so very apparent; Marsha is Libby’s mean-spirited Mom and Jean is the long lost Aunt. And then there’s James O’Connor (Josh Duhamel), the ruggedly handsome farm manager who catches both of Libby’s eyes. She’s drawn to him and he to her. We get to watch a new chapter written out as it is lived.

The Lost Husband has, as you might expect from such a lame and lazy title, plenty of mournful drama concerning the interwoven love and loss shared between multiple characters. Thankfully though it also has the presence of mind to lean into the lightness of the more comedic elements from Libby’s fish out of water experience learning (or possibly relearning) her relationship with the land, while at the same time excavating integral parts of her past. Pretty much everything unfolds as expected and turns out the way you imagine it might. It’s a fitted sheet wrapped tightly around a mattress full of genre clichés, but the people resting on top bring enough depth and humanity that it feels fresh, warm, fuzzy. A darker, more serious film might have presented this story as a soppy mess straight from the wash, but here it’s been run through the dryer and hung on a line for good measure. It proves to have been a wise choice.

I still can’t wrap my head around the cheesy, Nicholas Sparks inspired, dime store romance title. The Lost Husband literally sounds like it should have been one of those dark and campy Lifetime movies (you know, where the husband is a full-time sociopath and part-time murderer). It’s pretty thoughtless and reduces the scope of a movie with more on its mind, which at times borders on being too unfocused and too conflated for such a standard dramatic piece. But having shared my few minor critiques, I still found that the chemistry and the vulnerability on full display makes the film approachable, likable, knowable. At times it’s even a moving depiction of what it means to move on. What it means to grow into the person you want to become. The Lost Husband (man, I still loathe that title) plants the seeds, waters them regularly, and puts the time and the effort in to earn its final yield. Here the harvest is home, and it’s most definitely where the heart is.

“You’re starting to look the part.”

Rating: 3 out of 5

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