The Bridges of Madison County Movie Review
Release Date: June 2, 1995
Run Time: 135 minutes
When their mother, Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep) dies, Caroline (Annie Corley) and Michael (Victor Slezak) are shocked and dismayed to learn that she wants to be cremated instead of being laid to rest beside their father, Richard (Jim Haynie). Not only that, she wants her ashes to be scattered off Rosemont Bridge. Thus begins a journey of discovery for them both, as they learn that there was a lot more to their mother than they ever realized.
In 1965, Caroline, Michael, and their father traveled from their home in Madison County, Iowa to the Illinois State Fair, leaving their mom, Franscesca, home alone on the family farm for four days. She looked forward to the time. Although she loved her family and did her best by them, she was a woman who was not at peace in her life.
The first day, as she works on her chores, she meets Robert Kincaid (Clint Eastwood), a National Geographic photographer who has traveled to Madison County to photograph the covered bridges there. He stops to ask for directions to Rosemont Bridge and Franscesca climbs in his truck to navigate him there because the back roads can be a bit confusing.
Glimpses of Franscesca's unhappiness shine through during their casual conversation. She can't remember how long she's been married - only that it's been a "long time". She was a teacher once, but Richard didn't like her being away from their family, so she quit. She's so tuned out of her own life that she doesn't notice the beauty around her, the smell of loam in the soil, or the fact that the "big yellow dog" that she talks about is actually white.
Originally from Barri, Italy, Francesca didn't know what she was in for when she married Richard. She didn't know anything about Iowa - just that it was America. When pressed, the first thing that comes to mind about her husband is that "he's very clean." She feels unseen by her family and stifled by a community of people who are good and hard working, but very close-minded and judgmental.
Robert Kincaid shakes up her whole world and challenges everything she has come to know and believe. He makes her question her decisions and her life choices as she learns about his life. He shocks and surprises her in many ways - giving her flowers (which brings a joke out of her that seems to surprise and amuse her even more than it does him), helps prepare dinner, offers to do dishes, and shares stories of his travels that give her a glimpse of a much larger world than the one that she has known.
One of my favorite things about this story is that the characters are older. Francesca is approximately 40 years old. Her children are teenagers. She is very set in her life and very committed to her choices. Robert is a little older than her (Clint Eastwood was 65 when this movie was made) and has been traveling and working as a photographer for many years. He, too, is very set in his life.
The love that springs up between them is not the love of star-struck kids with their whole future ahead of them, but rather, the poignant love of two people who thought they had a pretty good handle on the world and their lives and are suddenly confronted by true love for the first time. They have to figure out what to do about it. Their feelings touch them, move them, change them, and sweep them off their feet. Their love makes them dream big dreams - dreams that become uncomfortable as they realize that the reality of their situation is too insurmountable to be ignored.
I don't want to give anything away for those who may not have ever seen this movie, but I will say that the ending kills me. I've watched The Bridges of Madison County several times over the years and I still cannot stand solidly on one side or the other when I ponder the ultimate question it asks - "What would you do?" Some days, my answer is one thing. On other days, I feel the opposite. That is probably my favorite thing of all about this movie - it stays with you. It asks questions of you. It challenges you to learn just a little bit more about yourself.
Francesca tells Robert, "We are the choices that we make."
Robert tells Francesca, "This kind of certainty comes but once in a lifetime."
How far would you go for true love?
(I was not paid to endorce this movie in any way. I watched it from my own private video collection and my opinions and thoughts about it are my own.)
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