The Homesman


THE HOMESMAN takes place in the stark isolation and danger of the Nebraska Territory in the 1850s. Three pioneer wives are driven to insanity by the bleak, thankless conditions of a woman’s life on the prairie. A hardy spinster undertakes to guide the trio back East for the care that’s unavailable on the frontier (and away from their miserable husbands). She’s aided by a scruffy vagrant:  en route, they deal with the harsh elements of natural and human nature.

It’s beautifully directed by Tommy Lee Jones (he co-wrote), who most ably stars in another of his unofficial string of Dogged Journey roles that seem to appeal to him—Lonesome Dove, The 3 Burials of Melquiades Estrada, No Country For Old Men. He does a thoroughly unsentimental, acutely sensitive job behind and in front of the camera.


Co-starring is Hillary Swank as the kind, intelligent, desperately lonely heroine.  Like Jones, Swank adds more luster to her own career pattern of portraying Resilient Women On a Mission. Completely unaffected and deglamorized, she’s quietly marvelous. The emotionally destroyed women are played by Miranda Otto, Grace Gummer and Sonja Richter; rich cameo roles go to Meryl Steep, John Lithgow, Tim Blake Nelson, James Spader and Hailee Steinfeld. No false notes.


Beautifully shot by Rodrigo Prieto, mournfully scored (thankfully not a bit overdone) by Marco Beltrami, the script and delivery seem fully authentic. The 2014 work is 122 minutes long, was well received critically and did negligible box-office of $2,600,000 against its cost of $16,000,000.  With Barry Corbin, William Fichtner, Jesse Plemens, David Densik.  A sleeper that if there is any justice ought to develop a following over time.


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