Reviled by critics and largely ignored by moviegoers when released in 1999, Random Hearts is a pox on the reputations of Harrison Ford, Kristin Scott Thomas, and director Sydney Pollack, but it doesn't entirely deserve its lowly fate. The movie's lugubriously paced and its repressed passions are dulled under the weight of relentless melancholy, but Pollack deserves credit for defying the Hollywood Zeitgeist with a mature, substantial film about the power of betrayal to reach beyond the grave.
Ford plays a Washington, D.C. detective; Scott Thomas is a Congresswoman in the midst of a re-election campaign. When their spouses die in a plane crash, the cop is convinced they'd been having an affair, and his obsessive, masochistic quest for the painful truth draws him closer to the Congresswoman despite the mutual risks to their careers and domestic privacy. While she hides behind a façade of denial, his agonized investigation makes him simultaneously unappealing (a risk Ford may have taken as a challenge), sympathetic, and sadly compelling.
Pollack takes his own chances by keeping everything so relentlessly downbeat, but anyone receptive to the story will find that Random Hearts is a subtly rewarding study of tormented adults who've discovered too late the weaknesses of their seemingly stable marriages. It's anything but cheerful, and a subplot involving a corrupt cop (Dennis Haysbert) is a formulaic distraction. But Random Hearts provides welcome relief from dramas that flirt with emotional anguish without delving into its deeper consequences. --Jeff Shannon