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Director Dan Ireland shows a talent for authenticity with this heartbreaking love story based on Novalyne Price's 1988 account of her prickly romance with 1930s pulp-fiction writer Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan the Barbarian. She was a schoolteacher in a small Texas town; he was the odd-ball writer who lived at home and created comic-book characters that were sexier and more violent than was considered decent by the locals. Renée Zellweger's performance is a gem of sweet unconventionality matched by Vincent D'Onofrio's powerful show of eccentricity and increasing mental illness. Though smart and feisty, this leaves us wishing the filmmakers had dug deeper into Howard's unusual relationship with his manipulative mother.

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