“The Bridges of Madison County” – Late Lovers

The Bridges of Madison County


Title: “The Bridges of Madison County”

Release Date: 1995

Director: Clint Eastwood

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep, Annie Corley, Victor Slezak



This movie was a real highlight, especially since its director and male lead actor here showed the world a completely different face than the one he became famous for. Clint Eastwood, known for his creations of real tough guys, created a moving melodrama about the mature love of two very different people. She spent her whole life in the province, raising children and taking care of the house. He has always been a “citizen of the world,” belonging to no one and claiming no place on earth. “The Bridges of Madison County” is the story of a wonderful love that comes together too late to be realized. Nevertheless, it bears fruit and in its unfulfillment changes the fate of the characters.

“The Bridges of Madison County” – a romance in the American countryside

Clint Eastwood directed “The Bridges of Madison County” based on the best-selling novel by Robert James Waller. The film is set in the title town, Iowa. In 1987, Carolyn and Michael arrive at their family home to bury their deceased mother. Unexpectedly, they learn that Francesca left unusual instructions for the funeral, which several volumes of her diaries explain. It turns out that in the past this exemplary wife and mother had a passionate affair with a “National Geographic” photographer, who came to Madison County to take pictures of the nearby Roseman Bridge.

Following the narrative of the diary, we move to 1965 and watch on screen the story of the memorable four days that brought Francesca (Meryl Streep) and Robert Kincaid (Clint Eastwood) together. Despite the intense feeling that was born between them, the couple eventually separated. This is because the woman did not want to leave her husband and growing children. Nevertheless, the two remembered each other for the rest of their lives and wished to reunite if only after death – scattering their ashes over the bridge that led to their meeting. The story of Francesca’s affair moves her children so much that they decide to change their lives.

The Bridges of Madison County movie review

“The Bridges of Madison County” – center versus periphery

“The Bridges of Madison County” is a story about the meeting of extreme opposites. Meryl Streep brilliantly created the character of Francesca – a woman overwhelmed by domestic responsibilities, tired of living in one place, who, at the threshold of her children’s adulthood, is experiencing a grievous crisis. She begins to reflect on lost dreams and longs for a different world. Her portrait is an extremely complex picture. At first it seems that the heroine is a typical housewife, for whom home is the whole world. This is how she appears in the scene when Robert accidentally strays from the road and ends up in front of her house. In an attempt to explain to him how to get to the historic bridge, Francesca uses phrases that betray her unfamiliarity and at the same time her strong connection to the place where she lives. Instead of using specifics, she says, for example, that you have to turn behind the farm of the neighbors, who have an angry yellow dog.

Her inner portrait, however, begins to reveal itself as her relationship with Robert develops. So we learn that she is an Italian who, out of love for her future husband, left sunny Italy and went to America, dreaming of the wonderful opportunities this country offers. When it turns out that Robert knows her small hometown, there is a kind of breakthrough not only in their relationship, but also in the heroine herself. The fact that the photographer enjoyed spending time in her parts is almost like a physical touch to Francesca’s story. And this impression is underscored by a telling scene in which, during a conversation in the car, Robert reaches for something in the glove box and fleetingly muscles the woman’s knee. This is not only a harbinger of an erotic encounter, but also something much deeper. Francesca from then on, in a way, retreats into the past – a time when she was a young girl with dreams and it seemed to her that the world had so much to offer.

From the beginning to the end of the film, it is the spatial metaphor that plays the most significant role in “The Bridges of Madison County”. The characters are defined by where they are, where they come from, but also by their relationship to space. Robert is a man of perpetual travel, thirsty to explore new things and at the same time not attached to any home. As a journalist for a prestigious magazine, he is a person bound to the center and striving for it. Francesca, on the contrary, has a sense of being stuck in the province and a clear complex about it. Therefore, the fact that a well-known photographer saw something special in her hometown in Italy touches her to the core and renews old unfulfilled dreams of the big world. It is significant, however, that the romance of the protagonists completely reverses these relationships. Francesca, thanks to him, will appreciate the place where she is and it will become the center for her, while Robert, for whom a shared home with his beloved will become an unfulfilled dream, will be forever deprived of the center and condemned to circulate on the periphery.

The Bridges of Madison County film 1995

“The Bridges of Madison County” – at the crossroads

The spatial symbolism of the film “The Bridges of Madison County” is particularly embedded in the elements of the local topography. These include, first and foremost, the title bridge, the reason why Robert comes to Iowa and which forever connects him to Francesca. This cinematic bridge certainly houses a symbol of the connection between the two different worlds that the characters represent. Nonetheless, it is also a sign of the transition from one place to another, and thus the overcoming of a certain stage in life, which clearly relates to the personal changes that Robert and Francesca are undergoing.

For they are both at a mature age, entering a moment of summing up and taking stock. They are estimating what they have achieved and what they have failed to realize. Francesca is not the only one with a sense of unfulfillment. Robert, although a well-known photographer, regrets that he has not been able to find his own artistic path. Finally, the bridge becomes a telling symbol not only of the lovers’ meeting, but of the ultimate status of their relationship – a certain suspension and unfulfilled expectation. They will never cross to the other side together, they will never know what their life together would have been like, so they stay on the bridge and there they want to scatter their ashes.

The road, especially the crossroads, also plays an important role in “The Bridges of Madison County”. During the climactic scene of an argument between lovers, Robert confesses to a jealous Francesca unsure of his feelings that all the roads he has traveled have led to her. Images of roads are also the leitmotif of the film, especially the crossroads that finalizes the affair – when Robert drives off in a completely different direction than Francesca followed with her husband Richard.

The Bridges of Madison County film analysis

“The Bridges of Madison County” – late lovers

“The Bridges of Madison County” is a wildly moving story, which is not exhausted by the conventional formula of melodrama. The characters are extremely believable, and their affection does not carry even a shadow of cheap sentimentality. Although the romance lasts only four days, the bond between Francesca and Robert is born gradually and has nothing to do with love at first sight. It is an unusual union of souls, sensitivities and desires, something that, as Robert will say, happens “once in a lifetime.” Erotic tension builds like the heat of a summer day in Iowa. Francesca and Robert’s relationship, however, does not exhaust itself in the sexual dimension. It is a great love, dreamed of, mature, beautiful and unfortunately… late.

Francesca is painfully aware that she can’t leave her family, because that would destroy her loved ones, and then also turn her relationship with Robert into a mutual grudge. The most important decisions in life have already been made, and it is impossible to ignore or downplay them. Francesca cannot leave with Robert, despite her frantic desire to do so. Perhaps the greatest paradox, however, is that it is this unhappy love that saves the woman’s marriage and allows her to persevere to the end as a wife and mother. After all, Francesca is going through a huge crisis before meeting Robert, one can assume that she is thinking about separating from her husband and abandoning her current life. She wants to see the world, to try to realize the aspirations buried by everyday life. She sees her life in the province as a kind of failure.

Only Robert changes her perception of herself and her position. His admiration for the scenery of the town, the smell of the land, the tranquility and, above all, his admiration for her make her realize that she doesn’t have to conquer the world to prove her worth. And that it is possible to travel the whole world and not achieve your dreams. Years later, the heroine will write in her diary that it is thanks to the memory of this romance that she managed to survive on the farm all her life. Later it will turn out that learning Francesca’s secret will also significantly affect her children, who will decide to reach for their happiness.

Therefore, the movie “The Bridges of Madison County” does not leave the viewer without a shadow of hope. It exudes nostalgia for lost, belated love, but also faith in the value of dreams, even if they do not have the opportunity to come true. For as Robert says to Francesca at their very first meeting: “Old dreams are good dreams. None of them came true, but it’s good that I had them.”