The Bridges of Madison County Review

Fleeting love is destroyed not by the distance between the happy couple but the time they have together is, when adapted correctly, emotionally crushing. The Bridges of Madison County takes us through the core of blossoming love in just four days. Angry adults meet with the will and testament of a mother whose secrets were not devious or disastrous for the family but kindle their own thoughts and feelings. Clint Eastwood directs and stars in this piece alongside Meryl Streep, the two with such incredible chemistry and Eastwood with his effective direction, this romantic drama soon comes together as a high point of the old western hero’s career. Rightly so. 

The Bridges of Madison County is a truly beautiful feature. It is one of acceptance for distant and briefly intact love that never affected anyone but those deeply in love with one another. A discovery by seemingly greedy offspring gauges their initial reaction and their slow, burning desire to learn more about the mother that has suddenly left them. How four days of passion and time together can spin such passion is beautifully orchestrated by Eastwood and Streep. It is not just their chemistry that keeps this rolling, but the build-up before they even appear on the screen. The confusion, the anger and the frustration between parentless sons and daughters. It is not all comfortable trips through the countryside and wistful yearnings in fields and flowers. The harsh realities of the present are intact and foreboding, but they are barely registered issues for those in the past. 

That is where The Bridges of Madison County survives best of all. Streep and Eastwood, together on screen at last. Francesca Johnson’s life beyond and before her family is that of a double agent. She lived a life of true love, and never experienced it again. Eastwood directs this with compassion and pain. There is anguish to his work and it is a touching sentimentality that expresses itself so thoroughly in the body language and experience of these two stars. “I could have let this die with the rest of me,” Francesca writes in her letters to nobody. They are touching bits of dialogue, tearing away at the heartstrings with an effective pastiche of cultural clashes between the now and the then. Present and past offer two different tales of love, and it is the moments of the past that express the more culturally in-touch and modern look at love.  

An emotionally demanding feature, Eastwood and Streep are on top form throughout and present the dying embers of love as something to accept as a part of the passage of life, rather than something to pursue and regret. The Bridges of Madison County is a stern and loving feature, bolstered exponentially by the talented duo at the heart of it. Marriage, Eastwood showcases, is never easy. The experiences from before these aimless youngsters tie the knot is not demeaning or speaking down to the audience, but warning them of what is to come and what is expected of them. The Bridges of Madison County is exceptional at that, guiding its lost souls through the past, and how that experience before their time can help them in their future. That is the sign of fine storytelling, and it is nice to see Eastwood is such a natural with that actor and director blend. Few are, but the man had consistency. 

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