Mischa Barton, Pete Postlethwaite, Brenda Fricker and Neve Campbell star in this insistently sappy tale about love lost, unrequited and renewed. Gratuitous, schmaltzy and flashback-laden, the romance of Closing the Ring is so cloying it even outdoes the saccharine sob-fest that was The Notebook.
Ethel (Shirley MacLaine) is a widow turning to alcohol to escape her pain. But this pain is nothing to do with her dead partner. Meanwhile in Ireland, a loner named Quinlan (Pete Postlethwaite) has been digging up a hillside searching for debris from WWII. Chirpy teenager Jimmy OReilly, played by newcomer Martin McCann, joins him. The stereotyped name leads to a stereotyped plot, as the pair find burials by the local IRA and also an inscribed ring, the one worn by Ethels first and only true love when he left for Europe in the US Air Force.
What follows is reminiscent of this years floundering Evening in which another great cast flitted between time-periods trying to draw drama from a sub-Mills and Boon storyline. Mischa Barton plays Young Ethel and Stephen Amell plays Teddy, as improbably dashing as a Ken doll and whose hackneyed dialogue and wooden delivery make him excruciating to watch: Let me smell youI want to remember you just as you are nowI want to remember this moment all my life. Barton gives a fuller portrayal, but lets not get any hopes up come award season.
The couple marry in secret before he flies out in the night with chums Jack and Chuck. Knowing Chuck loves Ethel, Teddy asks him if he will look after her should something happen to him. Fifty years later and Jacks son and Ethel and Chucks daughter Marie awkwardly and severely chastise a laughably Jack (Christopher Plummer) for hiding his love for Ethel and ruining everyones lives. These children cruel, lacking in any empathy, and spoilt beyond recognition.
The whole thing is shoddy, shoddy, shoddy, right down to the obvious use of music and lighting, so that blatant that itthat you feel as though you have stepped into a parody of melodrama. Teddy steps into the golden sunlight asking Do you believe in God? and a surge of string music arrives.
The sprawling plot takes a lot of patience and despite being neatly wrapped up at the end its still nothing but an endurance test. The heavy symbolism, tenuous links and simple theatrical script add to the disappointment. The only redeeming is that dear octagenarian Dickie Attenborough is still making movies. But its not an engaging film; its a plateau of melancholic affectedness that alienates with its cheap emotional appeals.