Predestined love may conquer all of the major inconveniences — commitment, devotion, honor and stability — but Henry Jaglom’s “Deja Vu” proves that even passion ordained by the gods can’t overcome a commonplace script, stock characters and ordinary direction. A so-so specialty run should segue into durable shelf life for vid and cable fans of Jaglom’s patented low-budget, soul-searching oeuvre.
While on a bargain-hunting spree in Israel, L.A. shop owner Dana (Victoria Foyt) encounters a mysterious woman who triggers a series of events leading Dana (briefly) to Paris on her way to no less an appropriate spot for momentous romance than England’s White Cliffs of Dover. There, collar against the wind, easel against the landscape, paints Sean (Stephen Dillane), a gentle English soul who sizes up Dana for a godsend as instantaneously as she measures him for fatemate. This immediate bonding of the hearts is so complete and unchallenged that it deprives the film of any tension, while the leads never supply the heat or chemistry that would at least partially sell the well-worn notion of Unstoppable Love that propels the storyline.
From that point on, the coincidences and echoes underlining their spirit-driven union continue unabated. Just as Sean is about to get the Yank of his dreams into the sack, Dana rushes to London to join Alex (Michael Brandon), her banal hubby- and biz-partner-to-be; you know immediately that the uncouth Alex is no match for the Anglo charms of Sean.
Making their reunion even more hopeless is the fact that Sean and his wife turn out to be Dana and Alex’s housemates for the weekend. Sean’s wife, by the way, has as much chance at fantasy fulfillment as Alex, since she’s toiling at a trade as declasse as producing commercials. Also dooming her is her inability to fully appreciate the heavy significance of their host’s sister, Skelly (Vanessa Redgrave), an elegant, wise woman of the world who speaks the Queen’s English and is missing only a brooch with the image of a seagull to keep from announcing her as the guiding Free Spirit of the yarn.
Since neither Foyt nor Dillane is an overwhelmingly powerful screen presence, their ultimate decision to shed their mates and throw caution to the wind fails to register. Without a compelling contrast to their significant others, we’re not certain that Sean and Dana are making the right choice — or perhaps we’re not really convinced by what transpires that switching horses in midlife really matters all that much.
Jaglom’s own attitude toward the mystical malarkey in “Deja Vu” is not entirely clear. The film veers unevenly between laughing at the endorphin-charged paramours and endorsing their quest for perfect love, even to the point of trying to sell the audience a coda straight out of “The Twilight Zone.”
Jaglom’s pic isn’t without its touching moments and flashes of insight into its yupster characters’ hang-ups, but the most engaging scenes mainly involve secondary characters and not the tale’s star-blessed lovers. Redgrave proves she could read the Telecom listings and hold our interest, and former ’60s Brit Invasion pop singer Noel Harrison does a nice turn as the hapless host of the home where most of the economically lensed pic is based.
Score and tech credits are serviceable, though auds searching for a Euro-based tryst-fest may feel as cheated as the yarn’s jilted spouses. “Deja Vu” is chaste indoors and extremely light on the Continent’s colorful, mood-establishing exteriors.