The Bridges of Madison County, based on the novel by Robert James Waller
This is one of the quintessential romance motion pictures that has become such a classic that characters in quite a few other features refer to it, cry over the fate of the protagonists and are so enchanted by them and their love story.
If we add to that achievement the names of the Giants playing the leading characters, Meryl Streep as Francesca Johnson and Clint Eastwood – who also directs this film- as Robert Kincaid, we have the recipe for a Nec Plus Ultra, the film of all films.
Yet, this viewer was not overwhelmed.
One of the secrets of happiness is to Lower Your Expectations.
Therefore, a viewer may be advised to forget about Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino, American Sniper, Letters from Iwo Jima, Mystic River and other masterpieces created by this deity.
Francesca Johnson was born in Italy, in the town of Bari and has met Richard while he was in the country, where he had fought the Nazis.
She thought that coming to America and marrying this decent man would result in happiness, if not perpetual bliss, at least a satisfied life.
Alas, even if she has two children, Carolyn and Michael, the protagonist seems to be deeply unsatisfied to begin with and after the romance contained in the film, she is outright depressed and lives for the other members of her family, in a heartbreaking self-sacrifice.
Her family takes part in a county fair, where they register a bull and they will spend four days far from home, where Francesca is alone.
Robert Kincaid, a photographer for The National Geographic is looking to take pictures of…The Bridges of Madison County.
While looking for them, he arrives at the house of the Johnson family, where he asks for directions.
The amiable Francesca explains the fork, the left side and warns about the mean yellow dog that is on the road somewhere and then offers to take the stranger to the interesting constructions.
Grateful and perhaps already attracted by the woman, the photographer picks some wild flowers that he offers, only to hear his companion say:
- They are poisonous!
- Oh, and he drops them
- I was just joking…
Positive psychology studies have demonstrated that humor is one of the elements that bind people most efficiently together.
Francesca invites the visitor, who is alone in this part of the country, Iowa, to eat at her house, where they communicate with ease and they get closer together, the man speaking about the many countries he has visited, mentions Africa and the fresh green, the stunning colors they have there.
As they become closer, they have to be careful and the stranger is reminded of this as he sits in a restaurant nearby, where a poor woman comes at the door and everyone mocks and looks at her with disgust, for she has had an affair and we have to remember this is a red state- Trump territory alas- with retrograde, not just conservative views.
Robert and Francesca has talked about meeting, but after seeing what the poor woman trying to get something in that restaurant had to go through, the photographer calls and says that he can now see what the danger is, does not want to compromise his host and he would understand if she wants to cancel a future meeting.
However, this is an occasion that must be grabbed by the lonely woman, seeing as she is not in love with her husband- not anymore anyway- and her life will have nothing to offer her, except for this brief, but intense love affair.
One example of the state of inertia, absence where the heroine resides is a line in the initial dialogue, where the interlocutor is asking about the house, where is the family and he learns about them being with the bull at a contest…
One and a half years…
No, I mean the children
From her statements, it is clear that Francesca lives for the others and she finds little to be happy about, even if she is ready to sacrifice for her husband – perhaps for the children too- when there is talk about her running away with Robert, she says that she cannot hurt Richard, a man who has done no harm to anyone in his life…
What will she do?
It is a heartbreaking choice and no matter what she decides there will be great pain.