The Bridges of Madison County

Plot: Photographer Robert Kincaid wanders into the life of housewife Francesca Johnson, for four days in the 1960s.

Picture it. A dark Sunday evening in Winter, the last night before returning to work after the Christmas break. To say I was a little downtrodden would be an understatement. After turning down the Carpenters record I was playing as I hung out my washing, I poured myself a glass of wine. At this point, I hadn’t even decided to embark on my Meryl marathon, I was solely aiming to watch a few more classic films that had been gathering dust in my collection.

I remember picking this film from a shop shelf when I was in my teens and my brother mocking me for having the taste of a middle aged woman. I placed it back on the shelf and didn’t end up watching it until now, ten years later, surrounded by freshly laundered clothes and ‘Close To You’ still quietly playing in the background. The time was right.

(I decided not to light a scented candle, I didn’t want it to be overkill).

The film starts with Meryl’s character already dead, the story of her romance being retold from her diaries by her children at the reading of her will. That’s a pretty sure sign that the film is going to end with you feeling a little sad. The soundtrack doesn’t help to lighten the mood, a bluesy mix of classic jazz and the beautiful theme ‘Doe Eyes’ which plays throughout. I don’t know whether it was the cheap wine, the bittersweet love story or the incredible injustice of being forced to go back to work the next day, but as the credits rolled I was audibly sobbing. Not watery eyes or a singular tear that I could discreetly wipe away, it was a feral murmuring matched with an impossibly red face. I have no shame in admitting that, if I did I might as well cancel my year of Meryl Streep films right now (I am already mentally preparing myself up for when I have to watch ‘Sophie’s Choice’ again).

One of the best scenes of the film was the morning after the pair spend the night together, with Francesca’s family returning in a few hours and with them, her mundane daily routine. The cracks start to show in their whirlwind romance and the reality of the situation starts to sink in. It also included one of the best lines of the film, one that Clint had to personally beg the US censors for him to include.

“So, do you want more eggs or should we just fuck on the linoleum one last time?”

– Francesca Johnson

One word of warning though, the present day scenes with Francesca’s children are as wooden as the chair I’m sitting on right now. Faceless actors that don’t really add much to the film apart from reminding you: ‘This was made in 1995!′. The director could have been 100% more snip-happy with the editing here. Much like 2009’s ‘Julie & Julia’, where I spent most of my first viewing internally screaming whenever Amy Adams was on screen (I love her usually, but Meryl steals the show), the first rule of a Meryl Streep film should be ‘KEEP STREEP ON THE SCREEN’.

I think what struck me most about this film is that whether you are a migrant housewife in Iowa or a redheaded film lover on the wrong side of 25, it’s easy to feel stuck in a rut (or on slightly more dramatic days, like a greased piglet sliding towards oblivion), and to imagine a chance encounter that could change everything. From having inexplicably never seen this film before 2015, this has quickly become one of my favourites.

5/5

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