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|Closing the Ring|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Richard Attenborough|
scr Peter Woodward
with Shirley MacLaine, Christopher Plummer, Neve Campbell, Mischa Barton, Gregory Smith, David Alpay, Stephen Amell, Martin McCann, Brenda Fricker, Pete Postlethwaite, Allan Hawco, Sean McGinley
release UK/US 28.Dec.07
With this ring: Amell and Barton
Clearly aiming to be a sprawling romantic epic, this parallel timelines drama has some strong moments, but never quiet comes into focus, mainly because it's not easy to keep all the story threads straight.
In 1991 Michigan, Ethel (MacLaine) is burying her husband of 40 years with her daughter Marie (Campbell) and her husband's old war friend Jack (Plummer). Meanwhile in Belfast, a young man (McCann) discovers a wedding ring amid the wreckage of a plane on a mountainside, triggering a walk down memory lane. Back in the 1940s the young Ethel (Barton) was in love with Teddy (Amell), whose friends Jack and Chuck (Smith and Alpay) are sworn to take care of her if anything happens to him.
The basic set-up is rather confusing, as it involves 1940s and 1990s versions of most of the characters, plus four settings: Michigan and Belfast, then and now. The film flickers around as the story continually circles back in on itself, sprinkling revelations and connections that eventually fill in the gaps. In some ways, we're watching four completely separate stories, and even though they do eventually fit together, we spend so much work keeping things clear that we lose the emotional connection.
MacLaine and Plummer give the film a solid foundation in the story's strongest scenes, while Campbell delivers a terrific turn in the most engaging role. Fricker and Postlethwaite are fine as fringe characters who sometimes feel in the way of the main story. While in the central role, Barton never gets much to do besides lose her clothing while Amell strikes another beefy pose (he should never speak, really). Smith and Alpay register much more solidly, as both Jack and Chuck are the only characters who have real subtext.
Meanwhile, Attenborough crafts the movie as if it has Titanic levels of towering romance, but the various strands just don't work well enough together to make us feel much of anything, despite all of the soaring happiness and deep tragedy. It's beautifully produced, with some extremely striking sequences, and the puzzle-like structure keeps us gripped. But by the time all the secrets are revealed, we find it difficult to care.
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© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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