One of my favorite movies is The Bridges of Madison County, a 1995 American romantic drama film based on the best-selling novel of the same name, by Robert James Waller. I’m not sure that I can say I enjoy this movie, but rather that it has a compelling, ragged emotional realism that draws me in. I rarely watch movies over again but I’m not even sure how many times I’ve seen this one. I find myself thinking about it for days afterwards. Okay…okay —even though the ending makes me cry every time, I really do love this movie, and it is one of my all time favorites.
Francesca (Meryl Streep), an Italian war-bride lives with her husband and two children on an Iowa farm. In 1965, while her husband and children are away, she meets a National Geographic photographer, Robert Kincaid (Clint Eastwood) and they have a four day affair that intertwines their hearts forever. Francesca struggles with leaving her husband who is a good man, and her teenage children, and considers how her decision to go would affect them.
Francesca admits that the simple life she has on the farm was nothing like the dreams she had as a young girl. While her husband Richard is clearly a good, decent man, he is incapable of loving Francesca in a way that she longs for.
Robert, a loner and a wanderer has never until now felt, “this kind of certainty comes but once in a lifetime.”
Francesca realizes that the last four days were something very special, and even if she leaves with Robert, the dreamy-ness of these days will turn to reality. She looks at the implications of what leaving would mean to her children, and to Richard. Yet, leaving would lead to an exciting life, with a man who knows how to love her.
The final scene of the movie is the hardest for me to watch. Francesca in her good-man husband’s pick-up truck, rain pouring down, the love of her life Robert Kincaid in a pick-up at a red-light right in front of her —her hand pulling at the truck door handle.
The movie is not about love and sex, while it creates a virtuous intimate fantasy of both, it’s more about the complexities and the cost of choice.
In the times we live, we celebrate happiness —the holy grail, and everyone deserves to be happy. But there is still a lingering question. What about those left behind?
Doesn’t Francesca deserve to be happy? I’d like to say, yes. There’s nothing I want more than for her to pull the door handle all the way down and run to the man she loves —he’s waiting for her. But then I look at her husband Richard at the steering wheel —he’s right there at her side. And my heart falls. What about Richard? He’s a hard working, simple man, good to his wife and children. It would break him if she left. And what about the children?
So now what?
Here’s the bottom line.
There is a cost to the choices we make. The question is, what is the price and who will pay it?
If you are struggling with a decision —let’s talk.
Sherry Van Dolder