Movie Review: The Bridges of Madison County (1995)
The Bridges of Madison County (1995)
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep, Annie Corley
Synopsis: Photographer Robert Kincaid and housewife Francesca Johnson enjoy a four-day relationship which will influence the rest of their lives.
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WARNING! This review contains SPOILERS!
Francesca Johnson (an Italianised Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady, Suffragette) is an Iowan housewife drifting through life with her farmer husband and two non-communicative teenage children. Like most of us, faced with the realities of life she has set her dreams aside and settled for a drab life of house and farm-work. Then, while her husband and kids are away for a few days, National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid (director Clint Eastwood – True Crime, Unforgiven) drives into her life in search of one of the eponymous bridges. Thus begins, a passionate four-day affair that transforms Francesca’s outlook on life.
It’s not difficult to understand why some would be outraged by the fact that this film asks the audience to sympathise with an unfaithful wife and her lover, but the fact is The Bridges of Madison County couldn’t really succeed if it were any other way. While the story is ostensibly a romantic tearjerker – and it will undoubtedly hit all the right buttons for those who like that sort of thing – it also has a more down to earth message. The fact is, the love that Francesca and Robert share for the remainder of their lives after those four days, would, like all romantic loves, be destined to settle into a less elevated state once familiarity – and the real world, which is rigidly prohibited from impinging on the couple’s four days of bliss – set in if she had chosen to abandon her family for him. The ecstatic state of bliss enjoyed by lovers at the beginning of a romance never lasts, and it is the brevity of their encounter that keeps Francesca and Robert’s love alive.
The impeccable performances of the two leads can’t be denied, whatever your feelings on the matter. Eastwood dispels all memories of his tough guy action man image with his portrait of a man who is perhaps a little too good to be true, while Streep completely inhabits the part of a normal woman who has sacrificed her youthful aspirations for a life of secure mediocrity. The film is perhaps a touch overlong, and the framing device a little clunky, but overall The Bridges of Madison County manages to avoid the pitfalls of a genre that so easily lends itself to over-sentimentalising.
(Reviewed 13th January 2012)