By Brad Slager | July 27, 2003

Mining the familiar territory of what takes place in the afterlife, “No Return” explores the realm of death through the eyes of a recently widowed woman. She is bedside with her ailing spouse and, as he drifts off into the netherworld, he whispers a promise to her that he will return. Alice doesn’t really know what to make of the proclamation, and she gets further confused as events point to her husband Michael’s pledge coming to fruition.
Late night phone calls without a voice on the other end begin to pester her and very direct noises in specific parts of the house cause her to worry. Then events take a more personal turn–Michael’s coffee mug appears on the dining room table and his toothbrush makes encore appearances after being tossed in the trash. Alice turns to friends for help and seeks out the help of a therapist, to whom she reveals that she has loved another man, Steve, for the past few years. Eventually, she turns to Steve for solace, for a shoulder to cry upon, and for a bed guarded by a security system.
The incidents continue and gradually she begins to notice that it is not pranksters, but possibly apparition appearances of her late husband. She begs him to leave her alone despite the fact that he clearly seems to be trying to warn her of something. Meanwhile, her longing-from-afar for Steve is now becoming fully realized and they delve into a relationship scant weeks after Michael’s death. This lack of tact increases the unexplained incidents and she tells Steve she believes Michael is haunting her.
The two lovers walk out to a bluff and Steve bravely yells at no one to claim Alice for himself. Then one day, Alice is berating his gravestone and the pastor overhears, so he takes her inside to let her know that Michael had written a eulogy for himself when he first discovered he had a fatal disease. It was not really clear why he refused to read the passage at the funeral. Maybe it violated some pastoral Synod regulations and the pastor’s church is a union shop.
Alice believes that this oversight may be the motivation behind Michael’s loitering in the corporeal realm, so she hires a scab priest to read the eulogy at an impromptu graveside ceremony. As to whether it worked or not I won’t say, because if you have hung on with this movie for this long you may as well ride it out to the shore. The ending brings out some interesting angles to the afterlife scenario, but the problem is this whole production lacks vigor, and by the time the climax comes about, you feel too taxed to be enlightened.
Stephanie Colet plays Alice, and while she portrays bereavement believably at the start of things she stays at that somnambulant level throughout, and she saps the film of any energy. The buildup to any tension is laborious because, while Alice is unsure about what is happening, the audience knows from almost the beginning, however we have to walk along with her as she slowly pieces together the blatant plotline. This could have easily been streamlined without the story suffering.
As it stands, “No Return” has a few interesting things to offer, but getting to those moments is too long of a journey. After watching I honestly felt as if this had been a two-hour film that needed to be trimmed by at least a quarter. Not a good sign for a movie that already comes in at 89 minutes.

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