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CLOSING THE RING

SYNOPSIS:
In 1941 Branagan, Michigan, the beautiful Ethel Ann (Mischa Barton/Shirley MacLaine) captures the hearts of three young airmen on the eve of going to war; Teddy (Stephen Arnell), Jack (Gregory Smith/Christopher Plummer) and Chuck (David Alpay). It's Teddy she chooses, and they marry in secret on the eve of his departure, with Teddy wearing the ring that symbolizes their promise of eternal love. Teddy makes Chuck promise that if he doesn't come back, Chuck will take care of Ethel. When Teddy's B-17 crashes into Belfast's Black Mountain, Ethel buries the pain in her heart and her mementoes of him behind a wall in the house they built together. When 50 years later a young Irish lad (Martin McCann) accidentally unearths their ring, it rips open the past, spilling out secrets that Ethel's daughter Marie (Neve Campbell) finds hard to digest.

Review by Louise Keller:
At 84 years of age, Richard Attenborough shows he still has plenty of passion in his latest film, a romantic drama about locked up emotions and keeping promises. With its stellar cast headed by Christopher Plummer and Shirley MacLaine, the story's elements come together by weaving the past with the present. There are emotional high points in this film about one woman and the three men who love her, but the storytelling is cluttered and the constant to-ing and fro-ing from past to present detracts from the overall.

I'll be yours until the day I die, young Ethel Ann (Mischa Barton) tells Teddy (Stephen Amell) on their wedding day. But memories and affections locked behind wooden boards nailed permanently into place can only hinder the possibility of living a happy life. MacLaine and Plummer easily slip into the personas of the woman who can't cry and the man who could never express his feelings. Pete Postlethwaite also delivers one of the film's most moving moments as the gruff Irishman who has spent his life literally digging up the past.

The main problem with Attenborough's film is the detachment between the characters of the past and those in the present. Gregory Smith, Stephen Amell and David Alpay are excellent as the three central characters who live and love as one in war time, and Mischa Barton is lovely and vulnerable as the young Ethel Ann who has eyes only for Teddy. But it is hard to reconcile that the young and the old Ethel are one and the same, a fact that stops us from truly empathising with her. And even though Martin McCann as the young Irishman Jimmy Reilly gives an endearing performance, the writing of his character is far from complete. Neve Campbell's performance as Marie is excellent, yet there is also something missing from her character. Closing The Ring has a heartfelt and valid story to tell. It's a pity the emotional impact is not as great as the sentiment.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Rich with elements that cannot and should not be summarised here, Closing the Ring abounds with truths about the human condition that are both beautiful and painful, noble and savage. The story revolves around promises made by lovers that cannot and should not be kept if keeping them denies the joy of living.

Shirley MacLaine's tortured portrayal is an essential part of the film's impact, as is Christopher Plummer's characterisation of a man whose secret love has survived in equally difficult circumstances. There are several threads of love in the story, all of them to do with romantic love of the first order, yet the film has grit and pain and suffering in spades. It also has a sense of humour about character, including a lovely performance by Brenda Fricker as grandma Reilly, whose youthful wartime romantic escapades are revealed in embarrassing detail.

Admittedly, the young versions of the characters don't easily match their older versions, but this clunkiness can be forgiven in the context of the big picture. Mischa Barton is a delight as the young Ethel, Stephen Amell is impossibly handsome in a 40s way as Teddy, and Pete Postlethwaite is haunting as the guilt ridden Quinlan who has harboured a secret that might have set Ethel free a lifetime ago. It's a film that is epic in emotional terms, and perhaps old fashioned in the best possible sense - dealing with the lifelong impact of our most powerful emotions, as experienced through the lives of the people next door.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

CLOSING THE RING (M)
(UK/US/Canada, 2007)

CAST: Shirley MacLaine, Christopher Plummer, Mischa Barton, Gregory Smith, Stephen Arnell, Brenda Fricker, Martin McCann, Pete Postlethwaite, John Travers

PRODUCER: Richard Attenborough, Jo Gilbert

DIRECTOR: Richard Attenborough

SCRIPT: Peter Woodward

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Roger Pratt

EDITOR: Lesley Walker

MUSIC: Jeff Danna

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tom McCullagh

RUNNING TIME: 119 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 6, 2008







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