Robert Kincaid (Eastwood) arrives in Lowa to take picture of the area. He bumps into neglected wife and mother Francesca (Streep) and, with Francesca's family away for the week the pair indulge in a short but intense romance that lasts in their memories long after it is over.
The young, the smart alec, and those invulnerable to the contemplation of paths not taken in life, are likely to hold cheap the qualities that have made this handsomely crafted tearjerker the class, romantic weepy of the year in America - where 36 per cent of moviegoers are over 40.
It seems there is money (and, almost certainly, Oscar nominations) to be gained from the sensitive, tasteful affirmation that there is a sex-life to be had after the bloom is off the bod. Adapted from the phenomenally successful (and to this reviewer, ghastly) novel of the same name by Robert James Waller, Fisher King scripter Richard LaGravenese has pared the tale of its worst pseudo dribblings about taut muscles and "the molecular space between male and female" with grace and some good humour. The film shifts the focus of the book from shaman-like National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid (played by Eastwood) to Meryl Streep's Francesca, a robust but dreamy, Italian-born, taken-for-granted farmer's wife in Iowa.
With Francesca's corn-fed family conveniently out of the picture for a whole week at a cow show, she's ripe for a brief encounter when Kincaid pulls up in his pick-up truck in 1965 and ambles out in search of the nearest photogenic bridge. He proceeds to stick around to dispense enough quotes from Byron, cold beer and hot love to last a lifetime.
Playfully incorporating the inability of children, however old, to acknowledge their parents' sexuality, the story is intercut by present day episodes in which the recently deceased Francesca's adult son and daughter discover the history of this passionate interlude with envious shock that "between bake sales Mom was Anais Nin!".
As director, Eastwood goes for the slow burn in an unhurried, measured rhythm of visual details and silences that say more than the sometimes overly literary dialogue. And although some of the blubbing provoked is grief at Eastwood suddenly looking 100 years old, that unpredictable thing called chemistry is abundantly present, with Eastwood and Streep's artistically-lit couplings magically stirring. Discretionary warnings should be posted, however: "This film is not suitable for guys."
Streep and Eastwood's chemistry makes the film. Discretionary warnings should be posted, however: "This film is not suitable for guys."