Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank, Meryl Streep, Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter, William Fichtner, Barry Corbin, Evan Jones, John Lithgow, Tim Blake Nelson, James Spader, Hailee Steinfeld
Run Time: 122 minutes
Extras: The Story; Shooting The Film; The Western; The Homesman at Cannes
Sometimes a film’s released that slips quietly under the radar, with potential audiences completely unaware that they’re missing out on something marvelous. THE HOMESMAN, directed by Tommy Lee Jones, is one such title, and I’m glad I had the chance to review it.
Set in 1850s midwest America, independent frontier woman Mary Bee Cuddy (Swank) lives a simple life – farming, cooking, cleaning. Desperate for a husband and family, but rejected by every man she’s propositioned marriage to, she lives a lonely life. When the local minister offers up the opportunity to travel across country, Mary suggests she volunteer herself. Only twist? She’ll be escorting three unstable women – Arabella Sours (Gummer, Meryl Streep’s daughter), Theoline Belknapp (Miranda Otto), and Gro Svendsen (Sonja Richter) – pushed to their limit by their harsh living conditions and situations. On her journey across the sterile Nebraska territories she comes into contact with on-the-run criminal George Briggs (Jones), who agrees to help her in return for some cash. However, things don’t go to plan and Mary and George – along with their ‘baggage’ – realise how alone they really are.
THE HOMESMAN’s desolate setting is stunning as a backdrop, with our characters’ moods reflecting this – confused, disorientated, lonely. Visually beautiful yet barren, the outback becomes a character itself, looming over the narrative, digging its way into the heads’ of our cast. Swank as Mary proves once again her ability to lead a film; Mary’s solid, masculine outer appearance contrasts her inner instability and yearning for a family, the underpinning of any 19th century woman. Considered an outcast, her mothering instincts are wisely used looking after Arabella, Theoline and Gro, three erratic women not unlike our leading lady. Their vulnerability, matched with Mary’s, is protected by Briggs in a fatherly way, with George and Mary the vigilant ‘parents’ of the trio – maybe Mary’s wish came true after all…
THE HOMESMAN’s intriguing story, particularly the histories of the trio, will grip you, but its subtle, slow tempo may put off some. Hang on though, as Swank and Jones become a pairing you root for, making you glad and grateful you live in the 21st century. The DVD extras give a greater understanding of the meticulous details researched and included within, giving THE HOMESMAN a believability and – eventually – a sense of sadness given the realness of the story and setting.
[usr=4] THE HOMESMAN arrives on DVD and Blu-ray from Monday 23rd March 2015.