Usually we act as if we are autonomous, independent beings, totally separate from others. While most American movies celebrate this philosophy of individualism, here is a drama based on a play by Craig Lucas that dares to give us a glimpse of our unity with others. Norman Rene (Longtime Companion) directs this adult fairy tale, which also challenges us to consider afresh the enduring power of love.
Peter (Alec Baldwin) works at a Chicago publishing company. Rita (Meg Ryan) is an aspiring graphics designer who makes a living as a bartender. They meet at a party and fall in love. The two of them are very different: he's an optimist, and she's a person who feels that the world is such a terrible place that it would not be wise to bring children into it.
Peter meets her idiosyncratic parents (Ned Beatty and Patty Duke) and sees sparks of Rita's free spirit in her father, whose body bears some whimsical tattoos. Everything goes fine at their wedding until Julius (Sydney Walker), a stranger, walks into the celebration. He lives with his daughter and son-in-law and since the death of his wife has been withdrawn from the family; occasionally he wanders off and gets lost. On this day, he asks to kiss the bride, and Rita acquiesces. In an instant, they mysteriously exchange souls. Now Julius is living in Rita's body, and she is an elderly man dying of lung cancer.
On their honeymoon in Jamaica, Peter notices that something is very different about the woman he married. Rita has been an insomniac since she was fourteen, but this person sleeps comfortably every night. An acknowledged socialist, Rita now could care less about the racial injustices evident in Jamaica. And most striking of all, she has no interest in sex and can't remember how to make Long Island iced tea. This is definitely not who he married. Back home, he goes to the bar where Rita used to work and recognizes her soul in the old man from the wedding.
The same primal societies that emphasize the unity of all beings believe in soul retrieval. In this compelling drama, it is up to Peter to bring Rita back into his life. To do so, he must demonstrate his ardent love for her, even though before him sits a sickly old man. The magical scene at the end of the film contains a verbal exchange between Rita and Julius that proclaims in a most vivid way the truth of a Mayan principle: "I am another one of Yourself."
The DVD version of this 1992 film contains the trailer for Prelude to a Kiss.