by M. Faust
Three Women and a Vineyard
Arriving locally a few weeks too late for Mother’s Day, Bride Flight is the kind of movie you can use your mother as an excuse to see. Or to put it another way, it’s made to order for those of you who feel guilty about watching made-for-TV movies on the Lifetime Channel, a story about female characters who struggle against adversity that doesn’t crush you with bad acting and exploitative scripting.
The death of a New Zealand farmer (Rutger Hauer in an almost wordless cameo) and his subsequent funeral sparks a reunion among three women. All are Dutch natives who met each other in 1952 on a plane competing in a race to Christchurch, NZ.
The flight was nicknamed “the bride flight” because many of its passengers were women traveling to meet their husbands (or husbands-to-be) in the land of the kiwi. Like Australia for the British, New Zealand at the time functioned as a land of new opportunity for many, especially those who had lost families in the war.
The three are outgoing Esther (Anna Drijver), shy farm girl Ada (Karina Smulders), and aspiring housewife Marjorie (Elise Schaap). They spend time on the flight flirting with Frank (Waldemar Torenstra), a doctor’s son who wants to start his own vineyard. Ada captures his attention, but the sparks are quashed when he learns she is already married.
From there, the film moves back and forth between past and present to spin a web of female bonding and personal tragedies. Ada’s husband is frugal to a fault (their home is an abandoned bunker) whose only passion is directed toward religion. Jewish Esther wants to escape an identity that reminds her only of her family, dead at Hitler’s hand. And Marjorie, who has the simplest ambition, is forced to find an unconventional way to satisfy her dreams, resulting in a son who becomes the instrument of the trio’s eventual reconciliation.
As for Frank—well, not all of the men in this movie are sexless dullards. He figures in a few steamily erotic scenes that may not be to Mom’s taste but which seem to be de rigeur in Dutch cinema. (This observation may be unduly influenced by the fact that most of the Dutch films I have seen were made by Paul Verhoeven.)
Bride Flight is the most expensive Dutch film ever made, and most of the budget seems to have gone toward photographing the New Zealand landscape to maximum widescreen effect. That will probably pay off better in the theater than on the DVD screener I viewed.
Pleasingly cast and nice to look at, Bride Flight is an absorbing timekiller. Given its ambition as mainstream entertainment, its only real flaw is that it leaves us wanting to know more about the characters and their lives. The experience of immigrants as they adjust to a new home is always interesting, and the film could have done with more of that. The only character who feels adequately covered is Ada, and that’s because she’s the least variegated. Even though it runs two hours and 10 minutes, the film could have used another 20 minutes, and plays like a truncated version of a longer miniseries or a novel.
Watch the trailer for Bride Flight
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