When Clint Eastwood takes over a production, he makes it his own. He stars. He directs. He uses his talent to the best of his abilities. In the case of The Bridges of Madison County, Eastwood shines, but not bright enough to block either Streep in her wonder or the intense romance based on the novel by Robert James Waller.
Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep) is your typical 1960’s housewife. She does all the cooking, cleaning, and caring. Born in Italy, Francesca once had dreams and aspirations of her own. However, now married, she is limited to living in an Iowa farmhouse that has been passed down through the generations to her husband. Her two children don’t give her the time of day and constantly slam the kitchen door closed. Her husband shows her no affection and doesn’t offer to help out around the house.
Cue Robert Kincaid (Clint Eastwood). In town to photograph a few of the county’s covered bridges, Robert meets Francesca (whose husband and children are away at the Illinois State Fair for four days) and the two begin to converse. After a few iced teas and an intriguing conversation, a relationship quickly buds and blossoms. Only, at the end of the fourth day, Francesca must decide to either leave town with her soul-mate or remain faithful to her family.
The outcome of this decision is already apparent to the viewer, because the entire film plays out in the fashion of a flashback. As Francesca’s son Michael (Victor Slezak) and daughter Caroline (Annie Corley) read their now-deceased mother’s journals, they are shocked to learn that she was involved in an affair with Robert—the man she describes as her one true love. Through these readings, Michael and Caroline come to know Robert and the relationship that he and their mother shared, and in doing so, they also find themselves.