'Closing the Ring' is an epic romance divided between the Second World War and 1990s America and Belfast. Directed by Richard Attenborough, it weaves together the pieces of one woman's life of love and heartache. It is based on a real air crash in Belfast during World War Two and shows how it has affected the characters. This story is brilliantly revealed with the help of legendary actors Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer.
The film opens with the funeral of Ethel Ann's (MacLaine) World War Two veteran husband in Michigan in the 1990s. While her daughter (Campbell) gives a heartfelt eulogy, elderly Ethel Ann sits outside the church smoking cigarettes, seemingly not upset.
Slowly we come to understand her feelings for her deceased husband through seamless flashbacks to the dizzy glory days before the US joined the war. In these scenes Ethel Ann (Barton) is in love with Teddy (Amell) while his friends Chuck (Alpay) and Jack (Smith) are in love with her too. But it all goes wrong when the three men head off for war and lifelong promises are made and emotions are suppressed.
The Belfast thread of this story is mainly in the 1990s where innocent Belfast boy Jimmy (McCann) lives with his grandmother (Fricker). He sparks up a friendship with Mr Quigley (Postlethwaite) who has spent nearly 50 years digging up a crashed warplane from a hillside. When Jimmy finds a wedding ring in the rubble he digs up memories as he begins the journey to return the ring to its owner.
The pre-war scenes have a simplicity which makes them seem told from memory, with Barton playing the beautiful, young Ethel Ann. But the scenes with her overly-perfect love Chuck are unconvincing, and like something from 'Little House on the Prairie'. It is 'Everwood' star Smith who is the saving grace of the early years, and as Jack he complements the fine performance of his older alter-ego, Plummer.
The shallowness of the early years detracts from the emotional depth and complexity in the 1990s scenes. As older Ethel Ann, MacLaine reveals the grating impact of war and heartbreak on people's whole lives.
The attempt to compare the Troubles and World War Two in Belfast is interesting, if a little lost. Solid performances from Fricker, Postlethwaite and McCann in the Belfast scenes, insert much-needed humour to the story.
The film becomes a little contrived in the last 15 minutes. Although it keeps the viewer on the edge and it is satisfying to watch the puzzle fit into place; the final Hollywood drama is unnecessary as the unfolding story is itself dramatic enough.
Overall a beautifully shot, seamlessly-told story with some great performances which will keep audiences hooked until the end.