Message in a Bottle

It may not be The Bridges of Madison County, but the latest Kevin Costner romance is nearly as good as they get. A lonely researcher for the Chicago Tribune finds a bottle washed up on the beach that contains a letter so passionate she develops a crush on the anonymous writer. After the message is published in the Tempo section, she tracks him down but neglects to confess her role in the invasion of his privacy until after they’ve fallen in love. The plotting that provides both the excuse to bring the couple together and the conflict that threatens to break them apart is calculated yet unintrusive, and this deft handling of the formula’s requirements, along with some unusually nuanced dialogue, makes this silky-smooth romance truly grand. Luis Mandoki directed a screenplay by Gerald DiPego, based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks; with Robin Wright Penn and Paul Newman. Chatham 14, Ford City, Golf Mill, Lincoln Village, Norridge, North Riverside, Old Orchard, 600 N. Michigan, Webster Place. –Lisa Alspector

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.