THE HOMESMAN (15)
THE HOMESMAN (15)
Director: Tommy Lee Jones
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter, Grace Gummer, Meryl Streep, Hailee Steinfeld, David Dencik, Tim Blake Nelson, John Lithgow, James Spader
Synopsis: Mary Bee Cuddy is an independent and resourceful frontier woman, conditioned to living a life of solitude and hard work in America’s West in the 1850s. When the preacher breaks the news that three local women have been declared insane and are to be transported across the barren country to a safe haven, Mary Bee volunteers for the dangerous and arduous task of leading them to Ohio.
Tommy Lee Jones acts, directs and co-scripted this adaption of Glendon Swarthout’s 1988 novel which takes an uncompromising and historically accurate look at a homesteader’s life. His characters are believable because they are drawn from true-life pioneer experiences. Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) is simultaneously gritty and fragile – in other words, utterly human.
As lonely, self-sufficient spinster Mary Bee, Swank saves drunken army deserter George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones) from certain death at the end of a noose. In return, this devoutly religious pioneer extracts a promise that he will do whatever she asks of him. What Mary has in mind is a dangerous six week journey across the open range. Her mission is take a trio of women driven insane by frontier life from Nebraska to Iowa. As the odd couple embark on their eventful journey, an unlikely bond of friendship develops. But there are also some shocking twists in store.
The Homesman doesn’t flinch at showing what a homesteader’s life on America’s Great Plains was actually like – bleak and isolated, with women the most vulnerable.
Many 1850s pioneers broke under the strain, and all four women in this film are in dire straits. As the film opens, we find three of them with desperate husbands casting lots to see which of them will escort these ‘madwomen’ back across the plains to Iowa, where they can be cared for. When the chosen man refuses this task, an unlikely fourth woman volunteers – Mary Bee Cuddy, a spinster, disappointed by men but more capable than all of them put together.
Tommy Lee Jones’s gritty, superbly crafted western takes a rare look at the plight of women in the Old West. The excellent supporting cast includes John Lithgow, James Spader, Meryl Streep (with her daughter Grace Gummer); but it is Hilary Swank’s phenomenal performance that makes her unforgettable in this epic, lyrical western.
Images courtesy of Entertainment One