Sentimental? Yes, certainly – but only in the sense that it is heartfelt, haunting and remarkably moving.
There are moments when Here Today threatens to get just a little cloying, but somehow it always pulls itself back, and the result is quite possibly the best thing Billy Crystal has done since When Harry Met Sally – which is possibly because it feels so much like we are catching up with Harry 32 years later.
Harry Burns, so quick witted and so keenly observant, has become Charlie Burnz, a veteran comedy writer, and so much about the character feels the same… except that here he is variously facing up to or denying the onset of dementia.
Charlie has memorised his route into work, he has come up with all the little coping tactics, but things are clearly getting worse – which is when New York singer Emma Payge (Tiffany Haddish) tumbles into his life, having pinched the lunch date with him which her ex-boyfriend, a Burnz fan, won insultingly cheaply at an auction.
Of course, they are absolute opposites in every respect, but inevitably the opposites do exactly what opposites are supposed to do: they attract, and they do so sweetly, gently and beautifully, all against the background of Charlie’s strange semi-estrangement from his son and daughter, something clearly linked up with the fate of his late wife, someone we repeatedly see in the flashbacks which cut through his worsening dementia.
There are one or two scenes which jar or don’t work, Burnz’s televised rant at a poorly-performing comedian for instance, but there is so much more which lands perfectly, to borrow Burnz’s phrase for writing which works.
The chemistry between Crystal and Haddish is spot on; you find yourself drawn into their relationship just as they are drawn into it themeslves: you feel Burnz’s loss, and you feel you can also see why Emma wants to spend time with him.
It’s a film with plenty to say about love and friendship, and it says it eloquently. But maybe best of all, Crystal is director and co-writer for a film which seems answer at last that lingering question: just what would Harry Burns be doing now?