In entertainment terms, the absence of short-term memory clearly has multiple uses, from the Nolan brothers’ twisty “Memento” to the Adam Sandler comedy “50 First Dates” to now “Remember Sunday,” a Hallmark Hall of Fame romance built around a similar (if more shamelessly romantic) premise. Zachary Levi (“Chuck”) plays a man who becomes a virtual blank slate every morning — the burning question being whether his condition will be an impediment to a relationship with the winsome Molly (Alexis Bleidel). Thanks almost entirely to the leads, it works on an emotional level, if only for those willing to short-circuit their brains.
At its core, the movie (written by Barry Morrow from a story by producer Michael Kase, and nicely directed Jeff Bleckner) probes a familiar romantic conundrum: Is it possible for love, that intangible bond Hallmark has built a greeting-card empire upon, to overcome the hurdles and cruel breaks life can throw its way? It’s just that the challenge here is so fundamental — an inability to forge memories together — that the love-vs.-challenge dilemma doesn’t quite seem like a fair fight.
The movie sort of takes its time explaining how Levi’s Gus — a brilliant scientist — suffered an aneurysm that neutralized the part of his brain responsible for short-term memory. So he awakens to a labeled file saying, “Read me every morning” — part of the support system developed by those around him, including his caring and concerned sister (Merritt Wever).
None of that, however, can prepare him for the mix of emotions when he falls for Molly (Bleidel), a cash-strapped waitress/student with a history of failed relationships and trusting the wrong guys.
For a while, “Remember Sunday” gets by on the poignant nature of Gus’ predicament, recalling any number of movies where budding romance is complicated by one party’s issues. Gradually, though, Gus’ contortions to avoid telling Molly the truth, coupled with the frequent interruptions and mix-ups that derail his attempts, begin to grow tedious.
Fortunately, Levi evokes genuine sympathy as he labors to keep re-educating himself daily about Molly, whose mix of excitement and confusion is certainly understandable. Together, the stars instill the movie with sweetness and a sense of melancholy, and will likely manage to get those who buy Mother’s Day cards embroidered with flowers rooting for them, even if the situation doesn’t.
Granted, at its best “Remember Sunday” is strictly OK. Then again, when it comes to giving in emotionally and enjoying this sort of movie, sometimes being unburdened by a memory isn’t such a bad thing.
(Movie; ABC, Sun. April 21, 9 p.m.)
Cast: Alexis Bleidel, Zachary Levi, Merritt Wever, Barry Shabaka Henley, Valerie Azlynn, David Hoffman, Jerry Adler.
Filmed in New Orleans by Hallmark Hall of Fame Prods. Executive producer, Brent Shields; co-executive producers, Michael Kase, Joey Plager, George Zaloom; producer, Christopher Morgan; director, Jeff Bleckner; writer, Barry Morrow; story by Kase; camera, Michael Lohmann; editors, David Beatty, Michael N. Knue; music, Christopher Lennertz. 120 MIN.