On Valentine's Day

Horton Foote's prequel to 1918 describes the immediate aftermath of a young Texas couple's elopement, and uses the love of Elizabeth and Horace Robedaux (Hallie Foote and William Converse-Roberts) as a beacon to illuminate the lonely lives around them, which include an alcoholic (Richard Jenkins), a spinster (Carol Goodheart), and a schizophrenic relative (Steven Hill) haunted by the memory of the girl he loved but did not marry. Though shot on location, the film has the look of a minimal soundstage production; the characters pop in and out of a drawing-room set, recounting the latest developments in their personal crises. Director Ken Harrison leaves a lot of space around the methodically recited speeches, which does contribute to the sense of a distant, more leisurely era but also threatens the film with a metronomic monotony. Foote's “simple truths” often seem too simple by half for the polished rhetorical emphasis he gives them, but his eccentric characterizations sometimes hit the mark. With Michael Higgins, Rochelle Oliver, and a guest appearance by Matthew Broderick.

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