Tommy Lee Jones’ “The Homesman”

the_homesman_1_jones_swankThis has got to be one of the most brutal movies I’ve seen all year. Not just brutal for violence sake we have all become accustomed to but the inner turmoil of women in the 1800’s that is on full display. Diving into the mind of what makes a person crazy in this patriarchal society, The Homesman allows for a pure archetype of manliness and stooping display of old world gentleness, at least as much as the harsh cold reality of being plain and desolate will allow.

The protagonist, played by Hilary Swank, is desperate for marriage and on the verge of being an old maid.  She accepts the task or volunteers to transport 3 manically depressed women, who have battled with mother nature and abusive men, to safety back east. Our protagonist, Mary Cuddy, also wants desperately in on the married life but can’t see the forest for the trees. She has acquired her own freedom through single-hood but society always wins, right? She is accompanied by Briggs played by Tommy Lee Jones (a civil war deserter plagued by good manners and no follow through) whom she rescued from death via a hanging, all the while hoping someone would rescue her.

Set against a harsh landscape and brutal winters, the men in their western frontier town are too cowardly to do anything to help.  Such an analogy of the tech frontier where so many tales of boom is happening and luck would have doesn’t strike the town, which in turn goes bankrupt. Like dreams scattered like ashes in the desolate landscape.

But enough about the metaphors etc., this film is precise, and with Jones at the helm it carries with it an era of classic shot selection like that of the yesterday. Steady and consistent rhythm, this film speaks only when necessary (the kind of filmmaking I personally like). Needless exposition is vacant. This film throws you in its world and doesn’t release you until you can sling away the problems and dance the same jig – by then you’ll thank God that you were born in the 21st century.


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