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The path of Francesca Johnson's future seems destined when an unexpected fork in the road causes her to question everything she had come to expect from life. While her husband and children are away at the Illinois state fair in the summer of 1965, Robert Kincaid happens turn into the Johnson farm and asks Francesca for directions to Roseman Bridge. Francesca later learns that he was in Iowa on assignment from National Geographic magazine. She is reluctant seeing that he's a complete stranger and then she agrees to show him to the bridges and gradually she talks about her life from being a war-bride from Italy which sets the pace for this bittersweet and all-too-brief romance of her life. Through the pain of separation from her secret love and the stark isolation she feels as the details of her life consume her, she writes her thoughts of the four-day love affair which took up three journals. The journals are found by her children after the lawyer was going over Francesca's will and ...Written by
Mark Fleetwood <email@example.com>
A surprisingly sensitive film that Eastwood does well to keep away from the usual sentimental clichés of the weepy genre
When Francesca Johnson passes away, her grown children are puzzled to learn that she wishes to be cremated and her ashes scattered from a local bridge rather than being buried next to her husband. Their puzzlement turns to surprise and shock when they read their mother's secret journals and read about an affair she had had many years ago with a photographer who came to the area for a few days.
I had seen this film many years ago in the cinema when it came out and had only average memories of it. With it coming onto TV recently, I wasn't sure if I'd bother because I had the idea in my head that this was a rubbish weepy but decided to go for it anyway. I am glad that I do not just make assumptions about films based on genre because my memory had tricked me in regards this film and in fact it was surprisingly good. I'm not generally a weepy fan but this is not what you think a weepy will be. Reading the plot summary and watching the film itself, it is clear how easily this could have fallen into sweeping sentiment and unbearable mush and it is to Eastwood's credit that it never does. Even as the plot sees the lovers falling into idealised romance, the film never does and it is the cool, calm direction that keeps it from being this way. Some will see this as 'excusing' the affair but I don't think it does affairs happen because the grass is greener and that is just what this film does; it seems romantic and idyllic but that's because it is meant to be. I'm the last person to try and defend having affairs but I don't think that this film did this but I can understand why people would dislike it for doing this.
Without the mush, what is left is a film that is refreshingly free of sentiment and is able to deliver a grown up romance that is genuinely touching. This is seen in the honest chemistry between Francesca and Robert; sometimes things like this happen two people just click, nothing has to be massively wrong in the relationship for it to happen. The film avoids easy shots (like making the husband be a real idiot) and just tries to show us why these two fell for one another so quickly. It isn't perfect of course and it is still a weepy of sorts some of the dialogue is a bit self-consciously 'deep' for my liking but generally it was an adult telling of an adult romance no corny ending, no sweeping score or clichéd effort to pump the audience for sentiment, instead I found it genuine and, as cold hearted a b*stard as I am, I was moved by the film.
I am a fan of Clint Eastwood and this film was a real pleasant surprise as it showed how able he is as a director and performer. I have already praised his work as director but he also turns in an unshowy and natural performance in the lead. Streep has never totally won me over and I often felt that doing an accent is not the same as giving a performance. Here her accent put me off at first but generally she is good and shows suitable restraint in depicting her character. She suffers a bit from having to deliver a narration that occasionally contains sentimental dialogue but she does well despite this. The support cast is OK but really contributions from Corley and Slezak are no more than distractions from the main show which is a collection of natural scenes between the two leads and no one else.
Overall, I consider this film a reason to not just watch any specific genre of movie and reject films simply because 'those aren't my type of things'. I was pleasantly surprised by a film that is romantic without being sentimental or mushy; idealistic without being unrealistic; moving without being sickly. True it may not be everyone's idea of a great film (nothing goes bang and there are no car chases) but I liked it a lot more than I had expected and if you want to see an adult love story then you could do a lot worse than this.
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