When Theresa (a Chicago Tribune researcher) finds a letter washed ashore in a bottle, she is so smitten with the romantic nature of the author that she tracks him down. It turns out that the writer, Garret, is a small-town shipbuilder whose wife had died two years previously of pregnancy complications. As a deep and mutual attraction blossoms, Garret struggles to make peace with his past while Theresa battles her own demons of divorce and loneliness. The very thing that attracts Theresa to Garret—his overwhelming devotion and care for his now deceased wife—is what initially stalls his ability to look to the future for hope and new love.
Positive Elements: True love. Message in a Bottle gives a healthy nod toward the meaning of true love. Selflessness. Loyalty. Sacrifice. Passion. Additionally, Theresa evidences a huge amount of devotion for her son (from a marriage that fell apart). On one occasion, she puts her work, and even an important phase of her search for Garret on hold because she's on the phone with her boy and doesn't want to put him second to her own pursuits. Forgiveness plays a large role in Garret sorting out a long-standing feud with his wife's family. The pain divorce inherently levies on people is also shown.
Sexual Content: Garret and Theresa sleep together twice without sexual involvement. Then they do have sex in an intimate, but not explicit scene. Theresa is briefly shown in her underwear.
Violent Content: A brawl in a diner between Garret and his brother-in-law makes for a few bloody noses. A stormy sea does its worst as Garret attempts to rescue a family from a sinking boat.
Crude or Profane Language: About three-dozen instances of mild profanity and uses of the Lord's name in vain. One s-word also escapes.
Other Negative Elements: Drinking (beer and wine) occurs throughout the film.
Summary: Ultimately a tragic love story, Message in a Bottle would make for a better date movie if it had refrained from spouting profanity and placing the hero and heroine in bed together—not a message teens need to see in such an emotional tale. The tone of the film is exceedingly melancholy and the pacing is slow and deliberate. Many young viewers may find themselves wriggling in their seats after the first hour. Still, it's a touching story with many redeeming qualities. As Theresa says at the end of the film, "Loss has been part of my journey, but it has also shown me what is precious."
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
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Kevin Costner as Garret Blake; Robin Wright Penn as Theresa Osborne; Paul Newman as Dodge Blake; John Savage as Johnny Land; Illeana Douglas as Lina Paul
Luis Mandoki ( )