Eckhart plays Dr. Burke Ryan, a motivational guru whose bestselling books and seminars purportedly are to help the masses deal with their feelings of grief and loss--but he also finds he uses his massive success as an excellent device to distance himself from his own feelings. Aniston is a successful florist, who, after a string of really bad relationships (her pal says, "you tend to fall for guys with expiration dates right on their foreheads"), has sworn off men. The two meet cute when they literally bump into each other in the Seattle hotel where Eckhart is holding a seminar. It's to both actors' great credit that what seems like an instant connection is really quite believable, though of course the characters' first instinct is to each run the other way. Eckhart and Aniston have believable, adult chemistry, something often missing from contemporary American film. Their emotional baggage has shaped them, and must be opened, organized, and then properly stowed for takeoff; Love Happens gives careful attention to that all-too-necessary process.
Martin Sheen has an excellent supporting role as the father of Burke's late wife--and who clearly sees the pain his son-in-law is steeping in, despite success beyond his wildest dreams. Director and co-writer Brandon Camp (John Doe) has a sure knack for dialogue and for connecting characters. He also is adept at letting a setting--in this case, Seattle--develop as a moody and appropriate backdrop for his story. (Though purists and Seattleites will have fun watching for the many breaks in continuity, between shots of the city and of Vancouver, where much of the film was shot.) "You have to give yourself permission to live your life again," Burke's friend (Dan Fogler) urges him. Words to live--and love--by. --A.T. Hurley