Watching The Bridges of Madison County was probably one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced. Worse, I watched it with one parent sitting on each side of me, so I had to keep a straight face all throughout the film. (I’m the sensible, non-crybaby member of the family and I don’t plan to switch reputations with Drama King Jiko.)
I’ve read the book back in college and I thought it was good, except for a few awkward parts concerning Francesca’s children after her death. However, Clint Eastwood proved his genius by making such a perfect film that (IMNSHO) it ended up being much better than the book. His main actress, Meryl Streep, further contributed to that by breathing life into Francesca’s character.
I understood what Francesca meant when she made her choice: staying with her family lessened the hurt the others would have felt if she left. She had her loyalty to her husband and her children, and in time, even her happiness with and love for Robert would be overshadowed by guilt had she chosen to follow him. In the end, the separation made their love forever perfect until they died.
I knew how it would end, I knew why she didn’t leave, and I knew that Robert would accept her decision like the honorable man that he is… But that didn’t keep me from wanting to her to jump out of the truck, leave Richard, and run out to the rain into Robert’s arms…
The practicality and sensibility of her decision, the sheer reality of how everything ended, was what killed me. What Robert and Francesca had was so special and rare that it was worth making a movie for, yet it was also so wrong that they could not pursue it.
As she watched Robert drive away from her life forever as she sat beside her husband in their truck, I felt for Francesca and all the women in the world who wished that if only life could just be a little different.