("Un Pont Entre Deux Rives")
In French with English subtitles
92 minutes | Rated: Unrated
Opened: Friday, February 9, 2001
Directed by Frederic Auburtin & Gerard Depardieu
Starring Carole Bouquet, Gerard Depardieu, Charles Berling, Stanislas Crevillen, Dominique Reymond, Melanie Laurent
Beautiful Bouquet gives deeply moving performance as cheating wife in evaporating marriage
Carole Bouquet is a cinematic treasure. A gold mine of authentic humanity and emotion, capable of playing a vast range of personalities, and more astonishingly -- yet accessibly -- beautiful at 42 than ever before, she is arguably the best film actress in France today.
So when she plays an adulteress in 1962 Normandy who has an affair with her husband's boss in "The Bridge," there is so very much more to the character than just her cheating heart.
Mina is a woman who is frustrated by the slow evaporation of magic in her marriage. She still loves George, her blue-collar lug of a husband (played by Bouquet's real-life mate Gerard Depardieu). But their relationship has gone from dizzy and passionate to comfortable and polite. In fact, she'd much prefer to lose herself in a record or a good book, or go to the movies -- where emotions are powerful and love is always ardent -- than spend a night with George.
One Saturday afternoon at the theater with her 15-year-old son, she sits next to a handsome stranger who piques her curiosity when they both cry through "West Side Story." He invites them out for a drink and for the first time in ages, Mina feels herself flirting. Even with her son present, the gentleman, Matthias (Charles Berling), stares at her longingly and arouses her untended heart.
George, having recently lost his contracting business, has just taken a construction job in a nearby town, helping to build a bridge, and he is away for days at a time, leaving Mina alone to contemplate an affair.
So brilliant at expressing the uncontrollable complexities of love, Bouquet visibly struggles with her feelings. She does see Matthias, but when he drops her at home she stands frozen and silent in the entryway of her darkened house, trying to justify to herself the path she's about to take. In that moment, and in many others throughout "The Bridge," her heart reaches out from the screen to enfold the viewer -- and in this powerful scene she projects such emotions with her back to the camera the entire time. Wow.
But as Mina and Matthias become lovers -- a fact she hides so poorly from her young son (Stanislas Crevillen) that he ends up covering for her with dad -- she becomes alive again and filled with joy, even as she also becomes aware of severe complication of her infidelity.
To make ends meet, Mina has taken a housekeeping job at a local manor. Mina's employer happens to be Matthias' cousin. He's staying there occasionally while he manages an engineering project near by -- the bridge on which George is a laborer.
Depardieu co-directed this film with another actor named Frederic Auburtin, and they do a fine job of tapping into Mina's soul while also showing how George's heart breaks as he realizes he's lost his wife to another man. As an actor, he gives a wonderful, quiet performance as a defeated man who is anguished as he begins to suspect his wife of cheating, and truly broken when his suspicions are confirmed. But hoping to not drive Mina further away, he saves his anger for Matthias.
"The Bridge" is not a movie of overwhelming emotion, however. It's more about the delicacies of heartbreak, about abandonment and self-rediscovery. Sometimes we don't understand the characters (why do George and Mina never have a "what now?" conversation?), but we quickly come to care about them all the same.
In a few small ways the film is flawed. It leaves dangling a subplot flirtation between Mina's son and her employer's daughter and Matthias is more plot device than emotional being. But its subtle ways have a lasting impact. In the days between seeing "The Bridge" and writing this review, I found myself going over the picture again and again in my head, realizing it affected me more than I thought. I love when that happens. It means the movie got under my skin.