Do not believe those TV ads that make this look like the goofy romantic lark of the holiday season. This is not a comedy, and it is no lark. Oh my god, I sobbed so hard during this film — beginning pretty much at the beginning and stopping only because I eventually had to leave the screening room. And you know how I feel about “chick flicks”: I hate ’em, because they usually rely on the most shallow of “emotions” as a kind of shorthand to engage that teary girl gland. I want real emotion… and I found it here. Kinda like Truly, Madly, Deeply without the supernatural element, this is a gloriously down-to-earth gambol through the stages of grief — if grieving can be said to be anything like “gamboling.” That is to say, this wonderful movie — from Richard LaGravenese (Freedom Writers) and based on the novel by Cecelia Ahern — is not relentlessly grim, but it is endlessly poignant even in its lightest moments: it is a warm and human expression of the reality, which we may resist facing when we lose someone, that life does go on. Hilary Swank (The Reaping) is a New York City real-estate agent — though she longs for something else to do with herself — who expectedly loses the love of her life, her husband (Gerard Butler: 300), to cancer. But in the months of his slow decline, he crafted a series of letters to her to be delivered by a secret helper after his death, missives designed to gradually nudge her to continue living. Honestly, Swank’s Holly was just a little bit of a self-centered bitch with him, as much as she adored him (Butler and Swank spark with electric chemistry), even used him like a bit of a crutch, and we believe that she probably needed just this kind of push out of the nest of her heartache. There’s the indescribably touching romance of this: how well he knows her, and can cater to her need. There’s a chick fantasy for ya.