Directed by Brad Silberling, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon, Ellen Pompeo and Holly Hunter.
Joe Nast's (Gyllenhaal) fiancée Diana is dead. She had returned with him to her New England hometown to marry, settle beside parents Ben and JoJo (Hoffman and Sarandon) and watch Joe go into business with her father. She was shot dead while waiting to tell her father something important in a diner across the road from his office. Now Joe is waking up to face her funeral, the trial of the man who shot Diana during an argument with his wife and the question of just what Joe wants to do with his life - and how big a part he should be of Ben and JoJo's.
Silberling's own girlfriend, the actress Rebecca Schaeffer, was shot dead in 1989 and whatever assembly of experience and fiction has brought 'Moonlight Mile' to the screen, it has an emotional resonance above what we've come toexpect/dread from 'big name' Hollywood movies. It lacks the lasting impact of both 'In the Bedroom' and 'The Son's Room', but Silberling's mixing of humour with grief means it's never as painful to watch as either film.
On the day of the funeral we find Gyllenhaal's Joe hiding in a broom cupboard to escape the throwaway sentiments of some mourners and it's a scene, which captures his predicament. With their girl gone, Ben and JoJo see him as the closest link they have to their adult daughter and a way to keep her alive through another person.
Joe assumes the role of buffer and respite between the two grieving parents - but the more profound the sense of loss becomes, the harder it is for him to reconcile what he feels is his duty to them and what he knows is the truth of the past. Things are complicated even further when he meets Bertie (Pompeo), a local bartender whose boyfriend is missing in action in Vietnam and finds himself keeping a secret from her and the people whose house he's calling home.
As the story progresses, you'll feel that Silberling had the nucleus of two films in his finished script. The relationship between Gyllenhaal and Pompeo's characters could've been a movie in itself while the triangle of the parents to their prospective son-in-law was another. In the merging of the two plots into one is 'Moonlight Mile' has its biggest flaw: there aren't enough scenes with Gyllenhaal, Hoffman and Sarandon together as a trio (and none between just the two older actors), with the mother's character never feeling as developed as Hoffman's Ben.
Compensating however, is the chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Hoffman, with the younger man tiptoeing around the elder's plans for their business and attempts to convince himself that nothing has changed. Their time together is the most rewarding thing onscreen and the echoes of 'The Graduate' (Hoffman's character is even called Ben) feels like a transferring of wisdom from one to the other.
For the stars attached to it, 'Moonlight Mile's box office take in the US was minuscule, but there's more to warm you here than regret.