directed by Tom Shadyac
Universal Pictures

Dragonfly is a curious film that cannot decide what genre it belongs in—thriller, horror, adventure, or love story. Its TV ads play to the horror angle: A child with bulging eyes delivers a cryptic message after a near-death experience, and the specter of a dead woman looks in through a window on the proverbial stormy night.

The serious point engaged by this film is that the afterlife is real. The less serious point is its assumption that our dead loved ones may need to stay in touch with us. (Dragonfly's promotional materials express it this way: "When someone you love dies … are they gone forever?")

"I believe we are facing our own mortality, after September 11 and amid the war, and sometimes that comes in waves," director Tom Shadyac said in a telephone interview with Christianity Today. "It's a movie with hope."

In the film, Emily Darrow (Kathryn Erbe) dies while volunteering as a physician among the poor in Venezuela. Emily becomes one of the busiest ghosts in recent movie history, sending frequent messages to her husband, Joe (Kevin Costner), who is also a physician. Emily speaks to Joe through critically ill patients at the Chicago hospital where he works and through making infernal noise back at the family home.

The urgency of Emily's messages eventually becomes clear, but the effect feels like an overly elaborate magic trick. If Emily's ghost can knock objects off tables, or return her clothes to a closet with immaculate precision, can't she just come out and say what she wants? Has the afterlife prohibited communication except through making things go bump in the night?

We know the answer, of course: This is a movie, and direct communication would make Dragonfly a ...

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Directed By
Tom Shadyac
Run Time
1 hour 44 minutes
Kevin Costner, Susanna Thompson, Joe Morton
Theatre Release
February 22, 2002
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