4 Days of Romance
"The Bridges of Madison County" is everything that a great romantic drama should be and most importantly it is compelling. It may be long at 135 minutes and there are a few scenes which feel a little drawn out, extended by periods of silence or unimportant dialogue but that doesn't matter because from the opening scene to the closing scene it draws you into a wonderful story of love, romance and hard decisions. All of which is set against a beautiful backdrop and featuring some glorious scenes which exude warmth and emotion, which is down to Clint Eastwood showing once again what a great director he is. As such "The Bridges of Madison County" is a stunning romantic drama which will captivate your eyes and capture your heart.
Following the death of their mother Francesca (Meryl Streep - Death Becomes Her), her children Michael (Victor Slezak) and Carolyn (Annie Corley) discover that back in the summer of 1965 she had an affair. Reading through her journals they discover that whilst as children they spent 4 days at the state fair with their father, Francesca met photographer Robert Kincaid (Clint Eastwood - In the Line of Fire) who turned up lost whilst looking for bridges to photograph for National Geographic. Over the next 4 days Francesca and Robert fall deeply in love but the whole time realising that on the fourth day some important life changing decisions will need to be made.
In many ways you could say that "The Bridges of Madison County" is a concentrated tale of summer love as this romance between Francesca and Robert takes place over just 4 days. But the effects of these 4 romantic days have long lasting effects even beyond the grave as the movie starts with Francesca's children going through her belongings after her death and discovering that she had an affair. What is quite magnificent is because of this opening we know how the romance ended, that after 4 days nothing came of it, Francesca didn't leave her husband but it has this strange effect of meaning we can fall in love with the love story rather than wondering whether or not the affair will split up a family. And with the often humorous interjections between Francesca's children as they read their mother's journal and discover this passionate side it breaks up the movie nicely allowing the love story to have a far more reaching effect as they look at their own lives.
What this means is that in "The Bridges of Madison County" Clint Eastwood gives us basically 4 days of romance taking us through the various stages and the life long effects of those 4 days. It's brilliantly done because Eastwood allows the story to unfurl at it's own pace never rushing a moment so that whilst it all occurs in just 4 days it all feels so natural. From the initial meeting between Francesca and Robert through to allowing their feelings to grow into love and on to the realisation that on day 4 things will be over is brilliant. In fact it's so good that you not only fall in love with the characters but also their story, enthralled by the way these two people who seem so right for each other fall in love, willing them on as they innocently flirt.
Much of what makes "The Bridges of Madison County" so good are those little touches which make it more real. Whilst driving towards a bridge Robert accidentally brushes Francesca's legs whilst reaching across and that spark of sexual chemistry which flies off of the screen. Later on whilst making dinner together when Robert reaches around Francesca that moment is there again and it is so powerful and so true that you know that tingling feeling which Francesca is feeling. But it is other things, such as when Robert witnesses the small minded, gossipy folks in the town that he wonders whether what they are doing is right because of the consequences, not for him but for Francesca. All of this and so much more makes this storyline, these 4 days of romance so charming, so believable and so captivating.
Helping to make it so captivating are the stunning locations and camera work. The scenes which lap up the stunning countryside and fascinating bridges are just beautiful. But then so are the scenes of romance as they draw you into the tender moments of this wonderful relationship conveying both love and fear in equal measures.
Not only does Clint Eastwood do a marvellous job of directing "The Bridges of Madison County" but also of acting in it. You may not think of Eastwood playing softer characters but here with Robert Kincaid he achieves the delivery of a real charmer but not in a sickly sort of way. There is something about Kincaid which is both manly but also someone who is romantic and as such is believable. What is also very believable is the chemistry between Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep which just radiates from the screen. As such Streep is equally as magnificent as Francesca creating this wonderful character who conveys the thrill of romance but also the fear of the consequences. Together Streep and Eastwood are a big part of why "The Bridges of Madison County" ends up so captivating.
What this all boils down to is that "The Bridges of Madison County" is a magnificent movie, a great romantic drama which does very little wrong. Eastwood shows once more a great touch when directing allowing this love story to unfurl in front of your eyes and captivate you. And pairing up with Meryl Streep manages to convey the real emotion of this romance allowing us to fall in love with not just the characters but also the love story. The only thing which is wrong is that it is too long, but then there is not a single second which feels like it could be cut without spoiling the naturalness of it all.