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DVD Review – The Homesman

2 min read

Tommy Lee Jones (No Country for Old Men) directs and stars in this period drama set in the mid-west about the harsh realties of the early American settlers. When three women (Grace Grummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter) are driven mad by the hardships of pioneer life, it is up to the pious spinster, Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank), to save them by transporting them across the barren Nebraska lands to a church in the east. She soon realizes just how perilous her journey is and enlists the help of a drifter (Jones) to drive them. Along the way they must contented with not only the harsh environment but the other very real threats of the land.

The Homesman Insert

Filled with shots of vast and spacious landscapes, the film is visually stunning and makes the most of the arid and treeless territory. Director of Photography, Rodrigo Prieto (The Wolf of Wall Street), does well to balance the beauty here while still maintaining a sense of the danger it presents.

Swank is in fine form, offering a strong yet tender portrayal of a woman on the verge of her own madness and desperation. Jones is remarkable too with his dependable presence as the gritty and hard loner, but does well in his direction to allow Swank to shine as well as himself. Both together though, create a nice odd-couple relationship that carries most of the film, as their opposing roles of sternness and tenderness switch back and forth.

Grummer, Otto and Richter all bring a certain charm to their performances as broken women, yet they unfortunately are not left with much to do once the journey is underway. Most of their story is told at the start of the film through flashback, which outlines the struggles that have brought their psyches to the brink of madness. The film also includes appearances from John Lithgow, James Spader and Meryl Streep that make for welcome additions.

While another strong film under the direction of Jones, both Swank and Jones are perhaps a little too comfortable in their characters. This might push audiences to feel that they’ve seen these two greats in similar roles; Swank as the strong, independent woman, pushing gender boundaries, and Jones as the tight lipped, cold hearted loner. Still, The Homesman is well worth the watch, if only to witness the masterful art of such seasoned actors.