Film, In Review: The Homesman

She wakes in the middle of the desert, purpose in hand, rifle by her side, dried dirt on her cheeks. She is searching for something, something found only in the West’s darkest depths.

Hilary Swank (Mary Bee Cuddy) in "The Homesman".

Hilary Swank (Mary Bee Cuddy) in “The Homesman”.

At thirty -one years old, Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) decides that she deserves more in life than solitude. After years of living alone, she craves the warmth of another soulful entity with strong arms and an even stronger heart by her side. One evening, she invites Bob Giffen (Evan Jones), the Mid-West’s foremost bachelor, to her house for supper. Two cans of wine and an imaginative serenade later leads Mary Bee to propose to Mr. Giffen, except, he already has his sights on another, younger, looking woman. Besides, Mary Bee is “just too plain” to be loved. He quickly asserts his apologies and departs, leaving her alone, again. In town, news of three women gone mad spreads and the pastor and his affluent congregation, including one Mary Bee, decide to take action. The pastor proposes that a Homesman takes a journey across the country to deliver these women to the home of the reverend’s wife to get the help they need. Mary Bee volunteers to minimal opposition and soon sets off in a horse and a caged wagon with nothing but a rifle by her side.

Tommy Lee Jones (George Briggs) and Hilary Swank (Mary Bee Cuddy) in "The Homesman".

Tommy Lee Jones (George Briggs) and Hilary Swank (Mary Bee Cuddy) in “The Homesman”.

A few hours across the plain, she stumbles upon George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones) hung high underneath a tree, rope fastened around his neck, and legs wrapped around a horse. He pleads to be released. She agrees – on one condition: he has to travel with her and assure the safety of the women that they are transporting, and if he tries to run, she will shoot him. Briggs agrees to abide by her rules. Mary Bee cuts him loose and together, they set forth eastward, to Iowa where the wide open plains await.

Based on the novel by Glendon Swarthout, “The Homesman” is directed by Tommy Lee Jones, and co -written by Jones, Kieran Fitzgerald and Wesley Oliver. The decorated cast is tinselled with high calibre actors Hilary Swank, Tommy Lee Jones, Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter, John Lithgow, Evan Jones, James Spader, Hailee Steinfeld, and Meryl Streep. Swanks portrayal of Mary Bee is one to be admired while Tommy Lee Jones captivates audiences as claim jumper George Briggs who counts the days until he can roam free. The film’s cinematography is beautifully crafted and this is partly because of its subjected genre. The luxury of shooting a Western is that the landscape will always be a character regardless of whether or not it is a focal point.

Unlike other characters, Mary Bee offers audiences a duplicitous contrast.

“In an age of defiant reliance, she exemplifies the ferociously independent woman yet, she is also burdened by a greater force.”

She is bent on helping the less fortunate but is disenchanted with her thirty year solace. Her desperation to find love oscillates heavily with her altruistic nature and as a result, her heart suffers for it. For Mary Bee, intimacy is the elixir for loneliness and to her dismay, Briggs offers no remedy. His echo of rejection is heard deep within catacombs, her discontent, is heard beyond the plains.

Nevertheless, Mary Bee, like so many others, challenges the social order because her gender does not define her yet her infectious yearning for love, though subtle, becomes a drug with an insatiable appetite — one bent on unravelling the fabric of her every being.

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