Few genres leave older performers quite as alienated as the romantic comedy. If all you knew about human interactions came from what was shown in multiplexes, you’d most likely subscribe to the false doctrine that if you haven’t found the love of your life by the time you reach your mid-twenties, you’ve missed your shot and you should just adopt a couple of cats. Thankfully, in recent years, more and more meet-cutes are expanding to include characters in their golden years. The Second Time Around, Canadian director Leon Marr’s agile dissection of the human heart, is a deft argument that it’s never too late to be lucky in love.
For Katherine Mitchell (Linda Thorson), life had always been kept at arm’s length. Even her greatest passions, such as her emphatic adoration of the world of opera, have been approached with a self-imposed level of restraint. However, once she breaks her hip and moves into an assisted living facility, she is thrown for a loop when she encounters crotchety Isaac (Stuart Margolin). Soon, the pair learns that they have more in common than they initially thought, deciding that life is too short to deny themselves simple pleasures.
Seasoned moviegoers will be able to guess plot beats – and even some sappy dialogue exchanges – long before they unfurl, but there’s a reason filmmakers continue to replicate this formula. Marr’s film, much like the opera it’s so entranced by, taps into a thematic rhythm that speaks to life’s familiar milestones, albeit in their extremes. There’s a pleasant coziness to The Second Time Around, as Katherine and Isaac’s budding romance ebbs and flows in a fashion that is at once both affectionately sentimental and wholly relatable. This isn’t the over-the-top all-encompassing love we would see in a teen romcom; Katherine and Isaac have each been around the block a time or two, and they approach their newfound relationship with a welcome degree of realism, even when their love story dips into saccharine territory.
The film’s script (co-written by Marr and Sherry Soules) aims for a slice of life depiction of romance that has little time for melodrama. Even the conflict that does arise seems to be placed there out of some sort of narrative obligation, a break in the otherwise smooth seas. We rarely stray the realm of reasonable possibility, keeping the story both familiar and true to its kind-hearted ideology. This barebones structure allows its characters to truly breath and blossom without succumbing to the daytime soap opera collision we expect to be around the next corner.
There’s both a captivating charm and an open-hearted vulnerability to The Second Time Around that elevates it above many of its lackluster genre brethren. This heartwarming tale keeps its narrative sweet and simple as it explores a brand of love that rarely makes its way to the silver screen. Sometimes we need a reminder of the power of comfortable, minimalist cinema, with all the bells and whistles of the big budget spectacles stripped away. With this film, Marr has created an airy, naturalistic ecosystem that is able to entertain without embellishing.