The Lost Husband
It’s safe to say we’re all in need of some feel-good escapism right now. The subject of grief might not be an obvious choice, but there’s something gentle and inviting about the romantic drama The Lost Husband that manages to wrap us up in a warm embrace. This is like one of those Hallmark movies you might stumble across accidentally on a lazy Sunday afternoon and allow yourself to indulge in. It’s a nice, easy watch, but is it too placid and predictable?
The husband in the title does not appear, but his presence permeates the life of protagonist Libby (Leslie Bibb) as she attempts to accept his death and move on. Exasperated living with her self-absorbed mother Marsha (Sharon Lawrence), Libby ventures deep into the Texan countryside to take refuge at her Aunt Jean’s farm. It is here she hopes to gain a sense of closure and carve out a new start.
Life begins and grows on a farm so the setting works well symbolically as we enter this unknown wilderness with Libby. Those expecting a romp in the hay, though, will be disappointed. The rural backdrop is of course aesthetically pleasing but the countless shots of the countryside are not enough to compensate for what is an antiquated and lacklustre effort.
Grief offers so much scope for inventive storytelling. Within the romance genre, we might expect it to be examined somewhat lightly, with newfound love taking centre stage. Here, the romance angle is very much a slow burn, and any spark between Libby and James fails to fully ignite. This is of a huge detriment as Bibb and Josh Duhamel – perfect as the hot farmer – enjoy excellent chemistry, which director Vicky Wight fails to capitalise on.
It is the acting that elevates a sedate script. Bibb’s character is someone we root for, with the performer resisting sentimentality as much as possible and successfully conveying the vast assortment of emotions Libby is experiencing. Lawrence is well cast but underused – her interactions with Bibb are among the acting highlights. Nora Dunn as Jean is restrained, leaving us with the impression that the actor wanted to give a lot more than she was permitted. It’s an engaging performance nonetheless.
The climax involves an old family secret being revealed and although this prompts some very dramatic scenes, the supposedly shocking divulgence falls flat, having not been set up effectively in the first act. It subsequently feels detached from the main thread of the plot, like a forced add-on or an underdeveloped tangent.
Those in search of an easy distraction might be satisfied, although you would be forgiven for thinking you’ve stumbled across a made-for-TV film from 15 years ago – so archaic is its style and storytelling. The cast do their best with the material and Wight’s clearly invested a lot of her heart and soul into the project, but in doing so she seems to have forgotten what her audience is after. The blueprint was there for something deeper but the creative choices, or lack of, render this formulaic, familiar and safe, and we are left grieving for the film it might have been.
The Lost Husband is released digitally on demand on 7th September 2020.
Watch the trailer for The Lost Husband here: