Somewhere with No Bridges (Photo: Voyager)

★★½ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Charles Frank
STARS Dale Frank, Ben Madeiras

As it’s noted at the beginning of Somewhere with No Bridges, Martha’s Vineyard is the largest East Coast island that doesn’t have a bridge connecting it to Mainland U.S.A. That explains the obvious meaning of the film’s title, but there’s also a subtler one at work.

In many instances in most of our lives, we are eventually able to come to terms with the passing of a loved one by focusing on the beautiful memories that were created. The love will always be there, but the tears dried up long ago.

That’s not the case with those who knew Richie Madeiras, a local fisherman and family man whose body was found a few days after he disappeared back in 1999 (an accidental drowning seemed to be the cause of death). This hour-long documentary centers on the aftershocks still being felt 22 years after his death. Many of those interviewed throughout the course of this film — friends and family members alike — break down while discussing Richie, and their anguish is still so palpable that one might have guessed that he had only passed away during the past year or two. This, then, is a community isolated from the rest of the world through its shared grief, and there’s simply no escape from the sense of loss that separates them from outsiders.

Somewhere with No Bridges is a personal tale, as director Charles Frank reveals via voice-over that he was five years old when he saw his father Dale and other adults reacting to the news of a sudden death. “It’s my first memory,” he says to his dad, who was one of Richie’s closest friends.

Throughout the picture, various people describe Richie in such rapturous terms that the movie basically becomes a eulogy, a testimonial, a tribute. In fact, this documentary is so specifically geared toward its subject and those who knew its subject — a man about whom we ultimately learn very little except that he loved his kids and his friends loved him — that it’s fair to ask if it will have any resonance to viewers who reside outside this corner of the country. To some degree, I suspect it will. Love and loss are universal concepts, and while the more jovial anecdotes won’t hold much meaning to those who weren’t privy to the actual events, the sadder interludes are likely to move anyone. When Dale wipes away tears while explaining why he always used to leave coins on Richie’s grave, it’s quite the emotional moment. Fortunately, his son is on hand to give him a hug from all of us.

(For news regarding the release of Somewhere with No Bridges, go here.)

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