War is hell, but so is stuffing your emotions in a box and not letting them out for half a century.
“Closing the Ring,” an overlooked war romance just released on DVD, spins a fantastical story about a doomed courtship and the untangling of a long-buried mystery.
The aged star power is there (Shirley MacLaine, Christopher Plummer) and so are the young guns (Mischa Barton, Neve Campbell). And “Ring’s” director, Richard Attenborough, snared an Oscar for “Gandhi.”
Just don’t let its straight to video pedigree dissuade you. It’s imperfect and requires a few hard gulps to swallow some convenient realities, but it’s an original tale told with gumption.
And MacLaine remains one of Hollywood’s most intriguing screen presences, even when she’s very still or in repose.
MacLaine stars as Ethel, an old woman attending her husband’s funeral. But she doesn’t seem nearly as distraught over his passing as her daughter (Campbell) does. The film soon rewinds to the 1940s, and a young Ethel (Barton) is falling in love with a handsome soldier-to-be (Stephen Amell).
Their courtship ends tragically, but the promises made during that pivotal time extend far beyond the war.
“Ring” is old fashioned in plenty of the ways that count. Ethel’s story is broad and sweeping, and the alliances forged at the start of the war hearken back to a simpler era, and a time with an enemy the world could rally against.
Some of the characters here may seem trite, like Jimmy the aw-shucks Irish lad who finds the “Ring” in question, but there’s always another stalwart supporting turn to rescue the audience. Pete Postlethwaite and Brenda Fricker illuminate poorly sketched out roles, and Plummer is nothing but class as Ethel’s long-time friend and confidante.
What a shame the trio of actors playing the soldiers setting off to war, especially Amell are so … uninspiring.
“Closing the Ring” must have been too hard to sell to big chain theaters. MacLaine isn’t exactly a regular on E! Entertainment or US magazine these days. But her subtle work in “Closing the Ring” shouldn’t be ignored.
(Photo: Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer remember old times … and look to the future in “Closing the Ring.”)
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