Conor McPherson’s unlikely mash-up of an autumn romance and a ghost story for the most part achieves an affecting charm. His cast can take more credit for that than his occasionally gothic style — in particular Ciarán Hinds as Michael Farr, an Irish widower, father of two, and woodworking teacher who indulges his dim writing ambitions by volunteering at the annual Cobh Literary Festival.
He’s assigned as a driver to Lena Morelle (Iben Hjejle), author of the spooky novel of the title, and that’s fitting, because Michael has been visited by a ghost — not of his wife, but of his still-living father-in-law. He taps into Lena’s expertise on the subject and finds a kindred spirit.
But the pair’s smoldering mutual attraction keeps getting disrupted by boozy, bestselling boor Nicholas Holden (Aidan Quinn having a great time), who’s also got a thing for Lena. The film is sparked by unexpected jolts — none of them as moving as a close-up of Hinds’s face haunted by grief, despair, and loneliness.