The Bridge (original title: Un pont entre deux rives) is a snapshot of a transforming moment in the lives of a French family in the 1960s, when buried desires and hidden frustrations emerge and reshape the boundaries of relationships that had seemed fixed in stone. Mina (Carole Bouquet) is the young wife of an out-of-work builder (Gérard Depardieu), and the mother of a fifteen-year-old son (Stanislas Crevillén). But while she seems content with her life, there is something missing. It might be an unconscious search for that extra fulfilment that brings her often to the town's movie theater, where she indulges in crying during emotional movies. It's at this theater, one day, that she befriends a stranger (Charles Berling) whose presence in her life is the catalyst for a change.
At 92 minutes, The Bridge has time only to look at a small part of these people's lives, and Gerard Depardieu, in his role as director as well as actor, keeps the focus of the movie on depicting their lives in depth rather than in breadth. The film isn't obviously gripping, but it flows well, drawing you in and keeping you involved. All the characters seem very real. It would be easy to see the characters as roles rather than people: the faithless wife, the betrayed husband, the "other man." In fact, the characters in The Bridge are anything but stereotyped figures. Their reactions are not always quite what you would expect... but they're always true to the characters as they've been developed over the course of the film. This provides a sense that the movie's conclusion is surprising, yet inevitable in retrospect. The emotional tone of the film ends up being bittersweet, showing how much pain can be caused by people in search of happiness. And yet, the film seems to say, life goes on, no matter what happens.
The casting is excellent, and is probably a large part of why the characters seem so believable. Depardieu, as always, is a pleasure to watch, while Bouquet does a satisfying job portraying a woman who is both impulsive and conflicted, yet with an essentially upbeat personality. The young actor who plays Tommy, the son, turns in a creditable performance as well. His frustration with the situation, and his love for both parents, comes through well.
The picture quality of The Bridge is good. It's an anamorphic transfer with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. There is a small amount of noise in the image, and it's not perfectly sharp, but this doesn't really detract from the image. Colors are slightly muted, but this seems to be simply a result of the artistic choices for setting and location, since flesh tones are natural and attractive.
The soundtrack for The Bridge is French Dolby 2.0. The sound overall is satisfactory. There's no real surround sound, or any particularly impressive use of sound effects, but this isn't the kind of movie that calls for that sort of thing, either. In a few scenes, it's difficult to hear the actors' words when they are speaking softly and mumbling slightly. This is probably due mainly to the French practice of recording the soundtrack directly as the scenes are filmed, and not re-dubbing the actors' voices in afterwards, a practice that has its pros and cons.
The Bridge is pretty much a bare-bones disc. The main special feature is the inclusion of cast filmographies; there's also a weblink. The menus are straightforward and easy to navigate. It's also very pleasing to note that the subtitles are removable; while I watched the film with the English subtitles, obviously anyone who speaks French would prefer to watch the film without them, and it's nice that the studio was considerate of this.
The Bridge is a movie that is small in scale, but that will linger in the mind afterwards. The DVD presentation of the film makes for an enjoyable viewing experience, so even though it's not loaded with extras, it's worth picking up, especially if you're a fan of Depardieu's other work and want to see him in a different role (both in front of and behind the camera). It's also pleasing to see that Winstar has given a good treatment to this foreign film, with an anamorphic transfer and removable subtitles. It's certainly worth a rental, and worth buying if you can find it at a good price.