This movie is a rare animal, a curiosity from a director who is best known for blockbusters. Always (1989) is reputed to be the weakest of Steven Spielberg's body of work! But for some reason has been reported to be the director’s own favourite film!
Described as a romantic adventure drama it's set against the background of the men and women who are contracted to fight forest fires from both the ground and the air. The film stars Richard Dreyfuss as Pete one of the pilots who is tasked with flying a plane which helps the ground based fire fighters with extinguishing out of control fires that burn there way through great sways of dry forest and bush. When Pete’s fellow pilot Al (John Goodman) gets into problems mid-air Pete fly’s in to save him but during this brave rescue attempt the gallant Pete gets himself killed. Dorinda (Holly Hunter) one of the ground-based crew has been in love with the newly deceased pilot and starts her grieving process.
Pete is replaced by Ted (Brad Johnson), a handsome young man who immediately fancies Dorinda. The movie now descends into fantasy. Pete's journey to a better place is interrupted when he meets an angel called Hap (Audrey Hepburn her last appearance in a feature film before her death in 1993) who tells him he is to return to earth and mentor Ted in not only his flying skills but also with his intended affair with his ex. She also explains that unless he does this and says a final farewell to Dorinda he wont get though the pearly gates and 'rest in peace'.
The film is a remake of Victor Fleming's 1940's movie A Guy Named Joe that starred Spencer Tracy and Irene Dunn with Spielberg changing the timespan to the present day and not the World War 2 backdrop of the original.
Films that span two worlds, that is the hereafter clashing with the present, if done well, can be very entertaining for example the Powell and Pressburger 1946 movie A Matter of Life and Death which starred David Niven as a 'dead' wartime pilot and even better was the recent BBC television drama River (2015) which starred Stellan Skarsgard as Detective Inspector John River and Nicola Walker as his murdered partner DS Jackie Stevenson whose apparition is repeatedly materialising throughout the investigation into her own death. Both these are nowhere as weak as Spielberg attempt to cover this re-embodiment genre. Casting Dreyfuss in the lead romantic lover role was not the best move while the eighties time period really dates the movie; some of Hollie Hunters costumes are really dreadful! I think the best way to describe the film is to use the word ‘silly’ in regard to the story line, corny in regard to the script and unbelievable in regard to the actor’s attempts to make an interesting and believable film. It's hard to believe that Steven Spielberg directed this malarkey between Empire of the Sun (1987) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) both far superior pieces of work from this well regarded American director.