Karen Kingsbury’s The Bridge is the sweeping tale of Molly Callens (Findlay) and Ryan Kelly (Nash), two young students who share a profound friendship their first semester in college, a time that becomes the defining moment of their lives. At their favorite bookstore and coffee shop, The Bridge, they spend countless hours studying and inspiring the other to dream their 10-year goal. They bond with the owners of The Bridge, Charlie (McGinley) and Donna Barton (Ford), a couple who designed the bookstore as a place where people can connect and be part of an extended family.[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-TxMUkSfI4[/embedyt]
Although I have not read the beloved book upon which this film is based, I have been greatly anticipating this film for quite some time. After seeing part one, I naturally want to cast every other book aside and hunker down and read the entire book from cover to cover. I expected this to be decent, but it was beyond that. While I cannot speak to whether this version is faithful to the book, I can guarantee that this on all counts, this film will not disappoint.
One other thing to note–the cast for this film is pretty massive for a Hallmark film. I am going to do my best to feature as many of the cast members as I can, but I do apologize in advance for any I overlook.
Had it not been for all the promotion work I did this summer and fall for The Time is Right (a science fiction television series still in the works), I would not know who this ravishing lady is. Finally, I got to see her ability displayed on film, and she is none other than Nicole G. Leier. Although her role is somewhat small as Shauna, her striking features and command of a scene will capture the viewers’ attention. I was pleased to see her, and I can only say that I hope to see more of her in the future as she is not an actress to be forgotten.
Another honorable mention goes to Natasha Burnett, one who has few credits to her name, but she is always beautiful, vivacious and memorable. In this film, she plays the role of Ronnie, and there was no denying who she was the moment I saw her. I highly await the blossoming of her career as there is no doubt, astounding things are in store for this young lady in the near futures–a talent that cannot be ignored.
I couldn’t believe how strenuously I hunted for information about this actor’s role as he is not officially listed in Hallmark’s press releases, but I knew his name (and I knew I recognized him). As Wade, the multi-talented and pleasantly seasoned Steve Bacic lends his talents to this pivotal character. He is rich and incredibly protective of his daughter. He has her life planned out in no uncertain terms, and he will do whatever he feels he must to shield her and keep her best interests at heart. Steve is impeccably cast as Wade as his imposing character is one of the reasons for the cliffhanger-style ending of this profound and poignant film. No matter what part Steve portrays, he always immerses himself fully in the role with intense credibility. And there is no doubt this role is ideal for an actor of his caliber and stature. Although Wade will be viewed by most as a villain or a bully (even possibly by his daughter, Molly, as played by Katie Findlay), no one can deny the imprint he leaves on this phenomenal film.
As one character who makes a special connection with Donna, Alison portrays the tranquil but thoughtful Edna. She is yet another actress I recognize, and I was not surprised to see Ties That Bind in her list of credits (of course–how did I not recognize her?) as well as The Nine Lives of Christmas. She has a signature smile that irradiates a room, and although this woman appears sober and maybe even withdrawn, there is no disputing Alison’s dynamic ability for portraying characters like Edna, who don’t need to steal the limelight from the major roles, but reverentially present her character in her own way. And in the midst of all the many cast members, she is one that stands out to me so I would say her mission is accomplished.
Another new face to me, but indeed one who will be remembered–Jaime as Luther. While his credits are yet a short list, there is no uncertainty that Jaime will be remembered for this film. As Luther, he is one of the regular visitors to the bookshop, and he certainly merits an honorable mention for his relative comfort when interpreting this role. I am unmistakably looking forward to seeing him again before too long.
When one reflects on this movie, this couple will presumably be at the forefront of the viewers’ minds and hearts. Molly and Ryan are the couple who are attempting to placate their families until they meet each other at college and discover that they have more in common with each other than they dreamed. From the beginning, they just “click,” and as they unveil what lies beyond the surface, they understand that they both crave something different than their families want for them. All their lives, they have satisfied their families, but will they take the plunge and pursue their concealed dreams? Or will they risk losing each other and follow the established norms instated by their respective families?
As the engaging young couple, Katie and Wyatt are entirely convincing and an absolute joy to watch. Their chemistry has what Hallmark viewers relish–romance, ease, but not overly physical. The passion they share is demonstrated through their expressive eyes and prudently inviting body language. Their characters are smitten with each other in spite of the odds, but they are circumspect and grappling with what their families will think–especially Molly. Now, since this is only part one, just be aware that not all questions will be resolved in typical Hallmark fashion. Be prepared for a bit of an enigma, especially where Molly and Ryan are concerned.
I didn’t know why, but somehow I thought I recognized Katie. It wasn’t until the writing of this review that it dawned on me–Crash Site! She played the daughter of the main couple in that film, and now here she is again portraying the daughter of a wealthy man with high expectations for her, the apple of his eye. While this role does not produce the highly dramatic moments like the other film I mentioned, Katie is credible, vulnerable, and stunning as Molly, the girl who must decide what she actually craves in life and whether it is worth striving for. She never appears to be arrogant, flighty, nor caught up in the social scene that her father’s wealth has provided.
As Molly, she is attempting to discover her inner self and place in this cyclonic world. Moreover, her love life is remarkably complicated as she attempts to make the accurate decision–what her father wants or what she wants. The man whom her father has selected for her is perfect, but not necessarily perfect for her. No spoilers, but I do believe viewers will have to wait until part two to learn what her ultimate choice will be. At least when she is at the Bridge with Ryan, her life tends to make sense. Too bad she and Ryan cannot remain in that enchanted bookstore forever.
As the gifted but somewhat bewildered Ryan, Wyatt brings everything necessary to this role in order for his character to be authentic and divinely handsome. Add to the package the incredible voice Wyatt has, and what girl could resist his charms as Ryan? I found myself completely enthralled by Wyatt’s portrayal, and although he has very little to his credits, I am persuaded that Wyatt has the makings of an actor to whom Hallmark will frequently turn for young leading men.
And incidentally, I do hope an album comes our way from this skilled guy–I surely would buy it!
Lest the audience forget, this is the couple that is behind the scenes in this story. As Charlie and Donna, Ted and Faith deliver a striking performance that is so impeccable as this caliber is rarely seen in television films (or even on the big screen) today. Within the first five minutes of the film, this couple had me in tears (remember, I didn’t know the story beforehand). My soul was touched by the matchless depiction of this couple who turn tragedy into hope and inspire so many other lives in the process. With this couple, it is the stable and rare beauty of a marital relationship based on trust, selflessness, and compassion that propels the story to its stirring conclusion.
Although I do not recall seeing these two in anything else, as I perused their respective resumes, I realized that I had seen them through the years without realizing it. Their experience is vast, and so maybe that is why they both appear familiar, even though I did not know them by name. Indeed, this couple’s story is what often gave me pause and aroused my soul within. Charlie is a true man of faith, and he devotedly attends church. On the other hand, Donna appears to be wrestling with her faith. The magnificent thing to see with this couple is the way Charlie never pressures her to attend church, and no matter what, he is always there for her. While Donna is a bit on the fence, it would seem that as the story unfolds, maybe there will be a hint of her being wooed towards faith as she observes Charlie’s dedication to his God. Because I hold my Christian faith so dear, I was sincerely impelled as I watched this part of the drama unfold between this couple. I so appreciate Hallmark’s dealing with a crisis of belief and the value of faith in everyone’s life in the delicate, straightforward, and unpretentious way they achieved in this film. If only more networks would tackle this issue, I suspect they would find the faith community rallying in support behind them. But for now, I’ll take the nuggets and morsels that Hallmark drops since each one is delicious, uplifting, and overflowing with authenticity.
Faith consistently gives the kind of performance an established, spirited, and talented actress should be able to present, and she effortlessly immerses herself in every aspect of the long-suffering and tender-hearted Donna. She is continually exploring ways to reach out to others rather than focusing on any personal loss she may have experienced. Although she is at a crossroads where her faith is concerned, at the end of this film, I believe the viewers will revel in Faith’s depiction of her character’s faith journey and the motherly way in which she regards all of her patrons (especially the young couple Molly and Ryan). While Donna may have no children herself, there is no question that her extended family in the Bridge have become as precious to her (if not more so) than any biological offspring she may have been able to bear herself. Faith’s characterization is unerring, emotionally uplifting, and permeated with a simple courage that increases over the course of the story. Witnessing Donna’s faith-filled journey is a treat, especially at this time of year, and when demonstrated through the eyes of a master actress such as Faith, this part of the story indubitably will resonate with every mother who takes the time to watch.
In Ted’s portrayal of Charlie, the idea of the patient husband is propelled to a completely new level. As much I loved Donna, I probably found myself loving Charlie even more. And that is mainly owing to Ted’s refreshing characterization of the husband who never thinks of his needs, but only the needs of his wife and the patrons of the bookstore. While he is a consistent churchgoer with a steady faith, he never comes across as arrogant, “holier-than-thou,” nor artificial. His faith is one that is serene and potent, but nestled deep within his soul. While he longs for his wife to share this faith, he never pushes, prods, nor nags. He waits for his God to provide opportunities to share his faith and better still, to put it into action. As we all know, love without action is nothing. And one thing that is never lacking in Charlie is love. He seems to have an abundance that colors every single action he takes in the film.
Ted has absolutely mastered the character of Charlie, and I know it is his depiction that causes me to favor this character the way I do. Ted is unusually effortless and authentic in his portrayal of this placid, ingenuous, humble man, and I do believe his character can be held up as a role model to other husbands, especially if in similar circumstances. When one thinks of “religious husbands,” sometimes the images of submission, authoritarianism, and even cruel taskmasters come to mind. While Charlie could never be like that, Ted injects an unending joy that rings true and resounds with the viewer. While I realize it takes amazing authors and writers to craft a character on paper like Charlie with tenderness and optimism, it also takes a sensitive actor who can bring this character to life without being sappy or fake. And I do believe quite frankly that is what Ted has accomplished in his portrayal.
Of course, no review of this film would be complete without mentioning the gifted author of this novel herself, Karen Kingsbury. While I have not had the opportunity to read her books as of yet, her reputation precedes her. And now that I have gotten a splendid taste of this story, not only have I pledged to read this novel, but I am recommending to everyone to give her books a chance. I found myself desirous of increasing my knowledge of the characters in this story, and I acknowledge the best way to do that is to get in and read so my numerous questions can be answered. A movie cannot explain everything, so I will urge everyone to read this book as soon as possible as there is no doubt Karen is a true author of distinction.
In conclusion, I believe it safe to say that if you have been unable to catch any of Hallmark’s new movies this Christmas season, I propose you set aside some time for this one as I don’t think you will be dissatisfied. I call this a must-watch this holiday season, and I am breathlessly awaiting Part 2!
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