A love story between a doctor (Chris) and an artist (Annie) takes a terrible turn when the two lose their son and daughter in a car accident, followed four years later by the death of Chris when hit by a flipped car while trying to help another driver after an accident in a tunnel. Chris finds himself in a self-made heaven, which resembles an amalgamation of Annie's paintings of places they had visited. The world is virtually perfect, except that Chris is missing his wife. Soon after, Annie commits suicide when unable to face life without her family. Chris discovers that she has killed herself, and is in Hell, going mad without even realizing who she is or what is going on. Annie's world after her suicide seems every bit as lacking as her life prior. Like Wristcutters, what comes after suicide is shown to be even worse then what one chose to leave behind. The characters get second chances, but in real life it doesn't typically work that way, so I think it is good that these films still, indirectly, urge caution--you never know if death really is an end to the pain, or just a way of perpetuating it for all eternity. Spirituality certainly plays into that, and that is another thing to ponder throughout this film.
After Annie's suicide, Chris, his guide Albert, and a Tracker take off to the depths of Hell in search of her. Chris risks losing his own mind to get her back, but cannot stand the thought of going on without even trying to get his soul mate. Of course, he does, and they return to Heaven to be reincarnated and have another chance at love.
I really enjoy the end of the film, with two children bumping into each other on a lake and sharing a sandwich; it's adorable and I can be a sap from time to time. The DVD also has an alternate ending in which Annie chooses to be rebirthed because she knows that suicide is a "sin" and she wants redemption. Chris chooses to be reincarnated as well, but there is a catch. Annie will be a Sri Lankan girl with a fatal illness, Chris will be born in the US and meet her when traveling to Sri Lanka, where she will die of her disease, and he will grow old without her. Chris quips that nothing is ever perfect, but the two decide to go ahead with their plans, and the movie ends with the births of a boy and girl in Philadelphia and Sri Lanka.
As far as cinematography and special effects go, this is such a beautiful movie. Chris's Heaven is made out of paint, and the work that was done to make it look like a world created by 19th century artists deserves recognition. The plot is interesting and moving, but I can't help but sometimes placing my love for it a bit behind the excellent landscapes. All in all, the Robin Williams trifecta is pretty fantastic. They are all movies that I can watch over and over again without ever getting sick of them!