A Previous Engagement arrives too late to expose the secret lives of mothers. The secret—that older women like sex too—is not only out, it has long been fodder for film, theater, literature, and most recently the bottom feeders of reality TV. Julia, a Seattle librarian played by Juliet Stevenson, is bored to death of her jigsaw-puzzle-obsessed husband Jack (Daniel Stern). She persuades him to take a vacation to Malta, where she plans to keep a 25-year-old date with her first love, Alex (Tcheky Karyo). Turns out the attraction is still there, despite wrinkles, failed ambitions, and the presence of significant others. (Alex has also brought along a complication, thirtysomething lover/assistant Samantha). Convinced that Julia is the love of his life, Alex forces a confrontation between the married couple. Meanwhile, Julia’s petulant daughters arrive in Malta to show that mom’s life back home is a nightmare of mind-numbing domestic responsibilities. Written and directed by Joan Carr-Wiggin, the movie is alternatively contrived (why would debonair Frenchman Alex continue to pursue Julia after several rude rejections?) and on-the-nose (as when Julia’s rendezvous reignites her artistic creativity)—adding up to a cookie-cutter romantic comedy in which Julia must chose between her two men. Nevertheless, Stevenson manages to deliver a few impressively poignant moments of nostalgia for the pleasures of youth against the stunning backdrop of the Maltese coastline.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 6, 2008