Acclaimed actor and filmmaker Clint Eastwood is perhaps best known for his many western films. He certifiably helped redefine a film genre that’s been around for nearly as long as the medium itself. However, he’s traversed outside of his comfort zone a number of times during his long and illustrious career.
But of the many roles he’s taken over the years, he’s rarely considered a romantic lead. So you might be surprised to know one of his biggest blockbuster films of the 90s saw him stepping up to his romantic side. In 1995, in starred in The Bridges of Madison County opposite equally legendary actress, Meryl Streep. The film received huge acclaim when it was released, but it’s since been mostly forgotten. Now you can relieve the special entry in Eastwood’s filmography on HBO Max.
In The Bridges of Madison County, Eastwood stars as Robert Kincaid, a photojournalist with National Geographic in 1965 who travels to Iowa to capture the historic bridges of the film’s title. Meryl Streep stars opposite him as Francesca Johnson who lives with her husband (Jim Haynie) and teenage children in the rural town. After her husband and children leave for a multi-day trip, the two meet in a chance encounter that leads to a passionate love affair lasting for four days.
Clint Eastwood’s Most Revealing Role?
Unlike most Clint Eastwood films, the film has nearly no action. He was riding high as an action star in the 90s, so this vehicle took Eastwood in some new directions. The Bridges of Madison County is more than just a story about a short affair. The brief connection the two characters develop sticks with them and haunts them for decades after the chance encounter. It’s a deeply emotional romantic tale that leans more into pure human connection rather than sensual passion. Although there is certainly sensuality in the film, the drama comes from the deluge humans face in everyday life.
The majority of the film revolves around the long conversations between Eastwood and Streep’s characters. Mostly inside the kitchen in her quaint farmhouse. The Bridges of Madison County might look like is has nothing in common with some of Eastwood’s other famous roles. But it’s actually right in line with his work output at the time. Like in Unforgiven or In the Line of Fire, Eastwood plays an aging man who’s coming to terms with his life.
Eastwood has mined this character trait for his roles for the last 30 years, but The Bridges of Madison County just might be the film that shows him at his most vulnerable. The film might be an outlier in his career, but it’s also one of the most revealing.