Of course, you have to dissociate Happy Accidents from the genre clichés associated with either the romantic comedy or the time travel film. Happy Accidents is not, for instance, a predictable sudsy romantic comedy that might topline Drew Barrymore or Julia Roberts. This is a romantic film with indie sensibilities and comes remarkably free of the sentiment and mawkishness that overflows mainstream counterparts. It is a film that feels amazingly free and not affected in any way. Both here and in Session 9, Brad Anderson demonstrates a great ability to write thoughtfully penetrating character analysis. There is a particularly haunting soliloquy from Tovah Feldshuh as Marisa Tomeis mother about holding onto passion before it goes away. Brad Anderson also demonstrates a wryly humourous and spot-on ability to get inside the head of the modern single woman, he being aided considerably by a fine performance from Marisa Tomei.
Nor is Happy Accidents a time travel film that falls into any of the easy categories established by bubbly pop culture comedies like Back to the Future (1985), Bill and Teds Excellent Adventure (1989) or the slambang action approach of The Terminator (1984) and their various imitators. The closest comparison might be the conceptually complex time paradox story of Twelve Monkeys (1995) certainly the idea of the time traveller focusing on an emotionally important image from the past and the time paradox ending here resemble Twelve Monkeys in a number of ways. Although the films that Happy Accidents most resembles are Man Facing Southeast (1986) and Friendships Death (1987). These are what one might call existential visitor films. They are usually two person dramas wherein one party makes fantastical claims to be an alien visitor in Man Facing Southeast, an alien android ambassador in Friendship, a time traveller here and the entire film hovers in a place of indeterminacy never letting us be sure whether this claim is true or the claimant is merely deluded.
Happy Accidents happily avoids any of the plotting models of most time travel films at least until the clever ending and for the greater part is a character drama playing on a fish-out-of-water sense of humour. If nothing else, Brad Anderson gives what must be a unique first for a time travel film an explanation of the theory of time travel carried out as a seduction.
(Nominee Best Actress (Marisa Tomei) at this sites Best of 2000 Awards).