The actors are all fine, with Friend having to shoulder most of the most, as he’s in almost every scene. When bringing up his father, and his mom scolds him never to say that name, Friend’s startled reaction feels genuine. Noone, as his mom, is quite good. She plays that old money, stiff-upper-lip attitude wonderfully. As Mary, Duncan is good as well. It is never questioned why and how Will falls so quickly and hard for her. The two share good chemistry.
Though, the trickiest part is played by Alex Breaux as Nick. He needs to both convincing as someone who believes the odd things he is seeing are real, as a down on his luck friend, and the kind of person prone to violent outbursts. Luckily, Breaux pulls it all off with ease.
“…an incredible spiritual journey…but abandons it in the last 15-minutes…”
Union Bridge is billed as a thriller, but that is hardly fitting. It has a few tense scenes to be sure, and the flashbacks, visions, dreams, or whatever they are to the Confederate supporters beating up and bearing something add a slight sense of menace. But, really, this is a mysterious, romantic drama. The bulk of the action is surrounding whether Nick is crazy, Will resituating to the town, and Mary and his relationship. Nothing in it, aside from a few scenes where Jeanie gets real mad, suggests thrills. This is not a negative in any way, more of an observation, and something I believe needs to be made clear.
Now, Levin has proven a great director with Union Bridge, sadly, the story he is telling needs work. More accurately, it needs a more satisfying ending. The characters are interesting and well established. But what’s going on, specifically who is getting the visions and how is muddled. And what it all leads to is not only easily figured out, but massively disappointing. The film sets up an incredible spiritual journey for Will and Mary (she and a few others practice a religion that most of the other townsfolk regard as witchcraft) but abandons it in the last 15-minutes for literal Earthly riches. Their discovery can alter their lives in several ways, but the film does not show us how or what they do with what they find. As such, it concludes on a massive letdown.
It is too bad then that Union Bridge ends how it does. There is so much to recommend and enjoy about the film that it is worth watching once. But, because the film’s story goes a more rote direction as it reaches its climax, it is only worth watching that one time. But, Levin is a good enough director that his next project would still be worth seeking out.
"…captures the beauty and ugliness of the American South."