The Bridge (1992)

A slight tale, speculating on the backstory of The Bridge, a pretty obscure painting executed in Suffolk in 1887 by Philip Wilson Steer (David O'Hara), a Scots-accented 19th Century artist you're entitled to feel smug if you've heard of before the movie came along. Based on a slim novel by Maggie Hemingway, and done in the usual, tasteful Film on 4 style, with the emphasis on middle-class suffering to the exclusion of working class tragedy, the film suggests that the painter had a brief affair with the sad-looking woman he depicted on the eponymous bridge, who turns out to be Isobel (Saskia Reeves), the neglected wife of cigar-smoking, moustached smoothie Anthony Higgins, and that he was spurred on to produce better than his usual work by the depths of feelings aroused by her, not to mention by the pain he glimpses in the face of a woman (Geraldine James) whose entire family are drowned in a fishing boat accident. The conclusion is that everyone is miserable, but it doesn't matter because misery helps artists create better art, especially if the misery happens to be someone else's. Hmmmmn.

Actually, even though on balance you'd probably do a lot better waiting for its inevitable TV showing within the year, The Bridge isn't entirely an agony, crawling out of its British Quality rut thanks to some aptly and effectively Victorian dialogue ('I don't know what it is about Guildford that provokes such a taste for melodrama') and, most especially, the vibrant presence of Saskia Reeves. After appearing in December Bride and Close My Eyes, Reeves is fast establishing herself as the Queen of Solidly Boring British Cinema, which is a shame since she is such an unusual and intriguing performer, her faculty for interesting repression suggesting that, given a mite less good taste and television production coin, she could emerge as one of the best cinema actresses of her generation.

First Published In: The Good Times (issue unknown)

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