Bride Flight uses a bit of real-life history — the Last Great Air Race, in which pilots competed to see who could fly quickest from London to Christchurch, New Zealand in 1953 — as the lynchpin for a melodrama with lavish production values and a soap-opera plot.
Many of the planes in the race carried Dutch women who were leaving a ruined Holland to meet up with their fiancées and start new lives. Aboard one plane, three women strike up a friendship: Esther (Anna Drijver), Marjorie (Elise Schaap) and Ada (Karina Smulders), who falls instantly in love with her fellow passenger Frank (Waldermar Torenstra), who is relocating to become a farmer after losing his family in the war.
Frank, too, has strong feelings for Ada. But she is already committed by proxy to humorless, stern Christian (Micha Hulsof), whom she has only met once, though she is already pregnant with his baby.
Bride Flight, which was directed by Ben Sombogaart with great style and polish, alternates between the past, following the three women’s lives in their new homes with their new husbands, and the present, when the aged trio reunites for Frank’s funeral. The most captivating of all the plotlines is Ada’s, who never stops thinking of Frank and gets an unexpected chance to act on her desire years later, after she’s given birth to three children and must decide whether to follow her heart and abandon her family.
The rest of Bride Flight is an assortment of incidents — pregnancies, miscarriages, domestic arguments, tragedies, adoptions and surrogate births — that are ideally suited for a romance novel one might read on a plane, then leave behind in your seat upon landing.
Despite the fine performances — Drijver is particularly good as Esther, a fashion designer of Jewish descent who insists her husband converts to Judaism — the picture feels awfully sudsy and familiar, consisting entirely of an assortment of clichés that you’ve seen countless times before. Aside from its period New Zealand setting, there is little to distinguish Bride Flight from something you might watch briefly on Lifetime, then change the channel.
Cast: Karina Smulders, Elise Schaap, Anna Drijver, Waldemar Torenstra, Pleuni Touw, Petra Laseur, Willeke van Ammelrooy, Micha Hulsof, Mattijn Hartemink, Rutger Hauer.
Director: Ben Sombogaart.
Screenwriter: Marieke van der Pol.
Producers: Anton Smit, Hanneke Niens.
Running time: 130 minutes. In English and Dutch with English subtitles. Sexual situations, nudity, adult themes. In Miami-Dade: Cosford, Intracoastal; in Broward: Sunrise; in Palm Beach: Living Room, Cinemax, Delray.