03 March 2014

Raising Helen (starring Kate Hudson and John Corbett)

Browsing films a couple of years ago I saw 'Raising Helen' recommended to me by Amazon. The reviews mostly seemed positive, and although I wasn't really familiar with any of the cast. So it went on my wishlist and I forgot about it; so I was pleased to receive it for Christmas last year. Our 25-year-old son had not seen it, so with a spare evening a few days ago we sat down as a family to watch it.

Three grown-up sisters, celebrating a birthday. Two fairly laid-back, one quite stressed and rigid in her views. Two with families, one - the youngest - a glamorous career-girl. Tragedy strikes, and Helen (Kate Hudson) suddenly finds herself trying to house and raise three children: a moody teenage girl, a depressed pre-teen boy, and a smaller girl...

For a romantic comedy, this film starts in rather a dramatic way and has a thread of tragedy running through it, yet I thought it was very well handled. The three children are entirely believable, dealing with their grief in their different ways. We don't see scenes of trauma, just snapshots that felt poignantly real. Overall it's an encouraging story with quite a message of hope about working terrible situations.

It's also about the difficulties of balancing a career with parenthood, and as such might well upset some; yet, once again, the way it's handled seems quite realistic. As a parent myself (though never a glamorous wedded-to-career person) I could empathise quite strongly with Helen's difficulties.

It's not laugh-aloud funny, although there are plenty of light-hearted moments. Inevitably there's a growing romance, but it's not a passionate one - instead, it grows out of a low-key developing friendship. Unusually, and much to our relief, nobody was shown leaping into bed after the first kiss. The language is clean, too. There's plenty of love and understanding, and while there's a caricatured Asian neighbour (Sakina Jaffrey) who introduces a bit of slapstick, there's a likeable and believable pastor (John Corbett) who is neither elderly nor a dork.

I wouldn't rate this amongst my absolute favourites, but overall, we all enjoyed it very much. More thought-provoking than many films of this genre, and nicely done.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

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