Though Moonlight Mile's narrative is entirely fictional, the emotions cataloged here are based in part on writer-director Brad Silberling's grief over the loss of his girlfriend Rebecca Schaeffer back in 1989. (Schaeffer, the star of TV's My Sister Sam, was shot and killed by a crazed male fan after she signed an autograph for him outside her apartment.) Joe Nast (Jake Gyllenhaal) grows uncomfortably close to his deceased fiancée's parents, living in their home and partnering in her father's real estate business. Moonlight Mile plays out like an anti-In the Bedroom in that Ben (Dustin Hoffman) and JoJo Floss (Susan Sarandon) negotiate pain via humor rather than broken plates. That's not to say that Silberling makes light of grief or encourages rituals of denial. Beneath JoJo's facetious demeanor is a woman who refuses to lose herself to the histrionics of mourning. In one scene, she readily admits that it bothers her just as much when wet blanket sympathizers call her on the telephone than when they don't. Silberling's comedy-as-therapy doesn't always work if only because Ben and JoJo's healing process feels entirely too lived-in for parents that have just finished burying their daughter. If the director's own healing process clouds the film's character trajectories, so does his propensity for the dramatic. Trouper that he is, a remarkable Gyllenhaal transcends Silberling's most calculated moves: a series of nightmare sequences and a courtroom scenario trying to pass for a no-emotions-barred therapy session. Silberling's direction is restrained enough to suggest he's learned a thing or 20 since City of Angels. His endless references to letters, phones and mailboxes call quiet attention to modes of communication and paths of healing. The film may be too weird and sleepy to make an impact with a large audience but its earnest and undeniably tender touch couldn't have come at a better time.