If you’re still riding high off of Rutger Hauer’s performance in Hobo with a Shotgun, this may not be the film for you. Bride Flight may suffer small audiences thanks to an unfortunately bland title, and the fact that it’s a tragic-romance set in the Dutch language enclaves of mid-century New Zealand, but I’m here to say that it’s a pretty damn good movie … with a healthy dose of boobies. Hooray for boobies.
While watching this film a million alternate titles poured through my head, but I suppose history is to blame. This movie gets its “start” amidst the 1953 air race from London to Christchurch, New Zealand. In this race a KLM DC-6A had 26 brides as passengers traveling to unite with their husbands already on the ground. The international press of the time dubbed the trip the “bride flight,” so once again I find myself cursing the short sightedness of old timey journalists.
On the flight, brides Ada, Esther and Marjorie meet the handsome and charismatic Frank, and the film then follows their dramatic entanglements as they unfold and twist back on themselves over the next fifty years. There are deep friendships, passionate love affairs, secrets and a tragedy or two.
With a plot that jumps back and forth between the present day, and the ‘50s, the film does an impressive job of teasing out the drama at a steady and pace. All four leads get their own rich and distinct stories, but the story never feels crowded or confusing.
Although the only high profile actor for US audiences, be warned that Rutger Hauer has about five minutes total screen time in this film. He plays “Old Frank”, and it seems as though the filmmakers were using his stature as a kind of shorthand for the character of “Frank.” His character is one that people gravitate too, and for that reason Hauer’s charisma is a plus. Yet the majority of the film is about, “Young Frank,” played by Waldemar Torenstra, who does a great job.
The majority of the acting juice in this film comes through the women’s roles. “Ada,” played with measured intensity by Karina Smulders, is definitely a centerpiece of the film and it’s her face you’ll see on the posters (if you see one). She turns in a great performance, and some “compelling” nude scenes (take the “” however you wish). In fact, one line from the film that came to mind as an alternate title was “Ada Von Holland” — or does that sound too much like a cruise line?
Elise Schaap and Anna Drijver also turn in fantastic performances here. While their previous work is Dutch and hard to locate stateside, I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t be making appearances in Hollywood films soon. They’re both competent actresses as well as “hete Nederlandse vrouwen” (wink).
I was surprised and impressed with how enjoyable this film turned out. Its 130-minute run time scarred me at first, but it was an unwarranted fear. This is a classic romance with unlucky lovers in the shadows of World War II, all set against the lush backdrop of New Zealand. I wouldn’t say this covers any particularly new territory, but it’s terrain covered well and with a steady hand.
Ignore the title, bring your reading glasses, and give it a try.