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The Bridge Review

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Vacationing in a tiny village on the Suffolk coast the summer of Victoria's Jubilee, the brooding, handsome Steer (Scotsman O'Hara) is entranced from afar by City stockbroker's wife and mother of three Isobel Heatherington (Reeves), resolving to capture her image on canvas. An adulterous affair inevitably ensues.

★★★★★

Based on an imaginary account of the story behind Victorian Impressionist Philip Wilson Steer's most famous painting, The Bridge betrays its origins as a Channel 4 production, always hinting at grander themes, but ultimately settling for the role of a simple tale of passion between a struggling painter and the married woman who inspires his greatest work.

Vacationing in a tiny village on the Suffolk coast the summer of Victoria's Jubilee, the brooding, handsome Steer (Scotsman O'Hara) is entranced from afar by City stockbroker's wife and mother of three Isobel Heatherington (Reeves), resolving to capture her image on canvas. When Isobel's eight-year-old daughter Emma befriends the enraptured painter, the necessary introductions are made, Reeves feels similar passions stirring and the inevitable path to an adulterous liaison is set.

Not before, of course, we get angst-ridden displays of Victorian repression and an ineffective subplot involving a fisherman's widow. When the lusty denouement finally occurs, Reeves sheds her garb with a swiftness befitting a multiple-costume change Vegas showgirl rather than a Victorian housewife. Naturally, their bliss is short-lived, as a jealous Emma betrays them, and the machinations of Isobel's status-conscious husband Reginald, played with charismatic sleaze by Anthony Higgins, come into play.

Syd Macartney's directorial debut, full of gauzy painterly shots of Reeves (in too much of a glazed-eyed daydreaming performance), will make the Suffolk Tourist Board ecstatic but the whole affair is ultimately let down by an unambitious charting of the waters of illicit love, and by a subdued O'Hara, who never conveys the burning intensity and passion needed to make it totally absorbing. Mildly engaging, although viewing Steer's painting in the Tate Gallery will achieve the same result.

Mildly engaging, although viewing Steer's painting in the Tate Gallery will achieve the same result.

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