By Merle Bertrand | October 18, 1999

Here’s one that just screamed “Chick Flick.” It is. But it’s a pretty damned good one that guys should be able to tolerate, even if it makes us squirm in our seats from time to time. That’s not because “Winding Roads” resorts to that old male-bashing trick to make the women look good, but because it takes an unflinching, hyper-realistic look at the ever-changing dynamics of relationships. As we guys don’t necessarily like being reminded how much work relationships are and how fragile and volatile they can be, this powerful film by Ted Melfi has the potential to rock a lot of previously complacent boats. It’s a simple premise. Best friends Renee, Samantha and Kelly are all at drastically different points in their respective relationships. On the surface, Renee seems to have the best of it. Billy, Renee’s boyfriend of nearly four years, proposes to her shortly after she discovers she’s pregnant. He gets her a diamond to make it official, only to then watch the relationship slowly disintegrate under the burden of legitimacy. While Renee and Billy struggle to regroup, Samantha, who’d had her heart broken when her beau Brian left to go study architecture, is trying to make a new beginning of a different kind. Repentant and earnest, Brian has returned, claiming he’s back for good. Sam must now decide whether to risk another heartbreak and let him back into her life. Finally, there’s Kelly and Mick, who are only signed paperwork away from divorcing after a tragedy that’s seemingly too much for their marriage to overcome. If “Winding Roads” at times plays more like a nighttime soap opera than a feature film, its saving grace is its utterly believability. Filled with fine performances, this is one poignant, thought provoking look at love and relationships that I highly recommend.

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