Closing The Ring

Closing The Ring


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Everybody knows that Sir Richard Attenborough is a gifted filmmaker who can always be relied upon to turn out a polished product. Less well known is Peter Woodward, who makes his debut here as a writer, having been inspired by the real life discovery in Ireland of an American airman's wedding ring lost during the Blitz. Whilst his script is overlong and suffers from having too many endings, the story he tells is still a powerful one which many viewers will find moving.

It's the mid Nineties, and Ethel Ann (Shirley MacLaine) has just lost her husband. Her daughter can't understand why she doesn't seem to be grieving (though she is drinking heavily). Her loyal friend Jack tries to prevent the young woman from uncovering too many secrets, but in the meantime, a discovery made by a teenager on a Belfast hillside is destined to change their lives forever. When Ethel Ann was young, she was courted by three men, one of whom she loved and another of whom, upon his death, she sadly agreed to spend the rest of her life with. Now, suddenly free and confronted with the ring her beloved took to his grave, she is forced to rediscover what she really wants.

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Closing The Ring delivers romance on an epic scale and seems destined to be the pride of some people's DVD collections, but beneath the gloss and the carefully crafted performances, it's lacking something. MacLaine is convincing as a woman who, in her seventies, can still command men's hearts, but she's just a little too distant for us to care the way the story needs us to. Neve Campbell turns in a surprisingly strong performance as her daughter, attempting to remedy this, but the only time the screen really comes alive is in the presence of Martin McCann, who plays the young Belfast lad determined to set things right. The actors who play the young Ethel and her friends are uniformly bland, making it hard to feel passionate about their emotions - rather than being shown these, we're told about them over and over again to the point of annoyance.

It's the Irish characters who are the most interesting, though they're really just there to support the central story; but Attenborough's portrayal of Ireland is, curiously, all-American and twee, accompanied by tacky music of the kind the pubs play for a joke on St Patrick's Day. A subplot involving the IRA is crude and cliched to the point where the script makes a detour to apologise for it. There's also a thread of misogyny throughout the story, whereby Ethel Ann's uncomfortable purity is contrasted with the happy-go-lucky promiscuity of her Irish counterpart, who receives nothing but scorn. Whilst the film overtly argues that people should take charge of their own destinies, it covertly celebrates its heroine's failure to do so.

If you're a fan of epic romances and are prepared to overlook these flaws, Closing The Ring will deliver for you in all the classic ways. Otherwise, however, you may find yourself closing your eyes.

Reviewed on: 10 Dec 2007
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Closing The Ring packshot
A widow's carefully constructed life unravels following the discovery of the ring worn by the man she loved 50 years before.
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Director: Richard Attenborough

Writer: Peter Woodward

Starring: Shirley MacLaine, Christopher Plummer, Neve Campbell, Martin McCann, Mischa Barton, Gregory Smith, Stephen Amell, Pete Postlethwaite, Brenda Fricker

Year: 2007

Runtime: 119 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: UK, Canada, US


London 2007

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