Based on the novel by Marieke van der Pol, Dutch import Bride Flight is emblematic of the particular sort of heritage cinema that is from the outside and at first glance stuffy and a bit boring but, if one gives it time and an open heart and mind, eventually blossoms due to the strength of its characterizations.
Directed by Ben Sombogaart (Twin Sisters) and based on true events, the film opens in the present day at a funeral and then flashes back to 1953, as a plane full of (mostly betrothed) women escape post-World War II Holland by emigrating to New Zealand for what they hope will be better lives. Marjorie (Elise Schaap), Ada (Karina Smulders, above) and Esther (Anna Drijver) strike up a conversation with the rakishly handsome Frank (Waldemar Torenstra), an agricultural college graduate looking to make his way with his own farm and tempted by the chance at cheap land. Frank represents a certain temptation for each of the women, but upon landing they meet their respective fiances and set about with their lives, to varying degrees of happiness. A casual fling between Frank and one of the ladies yields a pregnancy, while another grapples with the possibility of infertility. Secret pacts are then struck, which have far-reaching consequences throughout the rest of the years that members of the quartet remain in touch.
Once the element of progeny is introduced, Bride Flight charts a fairly predictable narrative course. But it’s made enjoyable through technical acumen and a clutch of strong performances. Torenstra has an appealing, square-jawed charisma that kind of favors Hugh Jackman by way of Simon Baker. He radiates decency, which is integral to an audience’s embrace of Frank, since he behaves not as a cad, per se, but just a guy seemingly ill at ease with the consequence of any of his attachments. All of the female leads beautifully inhabit their characters, meanwhile — especially Smulders, who gives a nuanced and conflicted turn as Ada, torn later in life between a choice to remain with her children and the chance for a new life with Frank.
One assumes that the split structure owes to import from the novel, but Sombogaart does more than pay lip service to these flash-forwards to present day. He imbues them with a full-bodied emotional integrity that give the movie’s final act punch some force, no matter the fact that one can see it coming. The actors playing all the characters in their golden years are also superb (Rutger Hauer pops up as Frank), making Bride Flight a solid arthouse offering for fans of quality international drama. For the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here. (Music Box, R, 130 minutes)