The strength of Eastwood's Bridges is in its patience, and how it lets the love story develop from start to finish, even though the audience knows from the beginning the broad strokes of what's going to happen.
Bridges is an admirable achievement, one that probably does more to reposition its maker as someone who can carry a movie without carrying a gun than as the director/star of a Love Story for the Loving Care set.
Bridges is an old-fashioned "women's film" that pits the heroine's romantic urges against her matriarchal duties. In fact, the film is at its dramatic best when Francesca is finally obliged, like Sophie, to make her choice.
Streep makes her character known in no time flat. Intelligence, humor, blocked ambition, self-irony -- they're all contained in Francesca's quick response when Robert asks if she has any plans for the afternoon.
What follows is, essentially, gothic-romantic bunk. But there's a nicely stylized, below-the-surface courtship between the performers. They make you forget that, at their very core, they are hackneyed creations.