As Oscar Wilde said, “The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.”
So when Julia Reynolds (Juliet Stevenson), a Seattle librarian, talks her staid, jigsaw puzzle-obsessed husband Jack (Daniel Stern) into taking a vacation on the Mediterranean island of Malta, she has a secret agenda. Twenty-five years earlier, she made a date there with her first love, Alex (Tcheky Karyo). When the sexy Frenchman, now the editor of a literary magazine in Montreal, not only shows up but vows she’s still his one-and-only true love, Julia is faced with an aching dilemma. Should she leave her family – since her two grown daughters have unexpectedly have shown up – for the memory of an idyllic romance? And what will happen to unsuspecting Alex when he finds out?
Cleverly written and insightfully directed by Joan Carr-Wiggin (“Honeymoon”), it’s deliciously unpredictable, an emotional roller-coaster ride…or as Julia astutely observes, “If people knew who their mothers really were, the world would end.”
Juliet Stevenson (“Truly, Madly, Deeply,” “Bend It Like Beckham”) is magnificently fearless and desperately funny, striking not a single false note in a highly combustible mixture of emotions. Tcheky Karyo (“The Good Thief,” “The Patriot”) performs with cagey humor and dazzling delicacy, while Daniel Stern (“Home Alone”) is slyly surprising and voraciously smart. As an opportunistic divorcee, Valerie Mahaffey (“Desperate Housewives”) is a radiant comedienne.
Amped by a sensational ‘buy-it-now’ soundtrack that’s perfect for baby boomers, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “A Previous Engagement” is an irresistible 8. It’s the rarest of all things: an intelligent, sophisticated romance with real meat on its bones. You’ll leave the theater with a smile on your face and an answer to the question: Is that all there is?