Closing The Ring
Review by Jack Foley
WHILE there’s certainly no faulting Richard Attenborough’s Closing The Ring for ambition, the film still suffers from a hopelessly old-fashioned approach, some cloying sentimentality and a ridiculously contrived screenplay.
Supposedly inspired by true events, the film jumps between 1941 and 1991 and follows an epic romance that begins just prior to the US involvement in World War II and ends amid the Irish troubles. It also unfolds over two Continents.
In Michigan in 1941, Ethel Ann Roberts (Mischa Barton) captures the heart of three friends – Teddy, Jack and Chuck – but only has eyes for the former. They marry in secret before Teddy is forced to leave for Ireland to serve in the Air Force and makes a pact with Chuck that he will care for her if he doesn’t make it back.
When Teddy’s B-17 bomber crashes into Belfast’s Black Mountain, Chuck returns to Michigan and marries Ethel Ann and they have a daughter. But Ethel Ann never stops loving Teddy and is forced to hide her secret heartache. Jack, meanwhile, must hide his own passion for Ethel Ann.
Events come to a head 50 years later, following Chuck’s death, when Ethel Ann (now played by Shirley MacLaine) is contacted by a young Irish boy (Martin McCann) who has found a valuable link to her past.
The discovery of the item opens up old wounds and eventually leads Ethel Ann to head to Ireland on a journey of discovery that could kickstart her life. Jack (now played by Christopher Plummer) must also confront his own feelings, whilst offering some form of explanation to Ethel Ann’s estranged daughter (Neve Campbell).
Director Attenborough adopts a non-linear device to prevent the story from appearing episodic and does well to juggle all of the different elements. But as his characters reveal more of their personalities and the story becomes increasingly contrived, the film loses its grip on our sympathies and even draws the odd snigger from its numerous coincidences.
None of this helps the cast, of course, who subsequently deliver uneven performances. MacLaine, especially, struggles to make Ethel Ann remotely sympathetic despite sharing the odd decent moment with Plummer, while Pete Postlethwaite and Brenda Fricker are lumbered with relatively one-dimensional characters as they chronicle events from the Irish perspective.
The younger cast members, meanwhile, over-act (in the case of McCann) or appear horribly wooden (Stephen Amell’s Teddy).
By the time events conspire to reach an explosive climax in Ireland against the backdrop of the IRA’s bombing campaign viewers may well be burying their heads in disbelief at the preposterous events that follow. Coming from a director whose best work includes Ghandi, Shadowlands and Chaplin, the sense of disappointment is all the more pronounced.
Running time: 118mins
UK DVD Release Date: May 19, 2008