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DVD: The Homesman | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: The Homesman

DVD: The Homesman

The female view dominates in a bleak and minimal western directed by Tommy Lee Jones

A classic odd couple: Hilary Swank as Mary Bee Cuddy and Tommy Lee Jones as George Briggs in 'The Homesman'

 “You're plain as an old tin pail and you're bossy.” Tommy Lee Jones’s George Briggs doesn’t mince his words while sitting across the table from Hilary Swank’s Mary Bee Cuddy. She’s just told him that “if you lied to me and intend on abandoning your responsibility, then you are a man of low character, more disgusting pig than honourable man.” This undeniably funny exchange shines like a gold nugget in mud when set against the overall tone of the formidable The Homesman, a western which Jones describes, in one of the DVD’s on-set extras, as “minimal.”

The Homesman also focuses on women in the west – Cuddy, unmarried and running her own farm, has taken on a job that no man will do. It’s the 1850s. After a terrible winter in Loup City, Nebraska, three wives have serious mental health problems. Life is grim, and seen unflinchingly on camera to be exceedingly grim. It is decided that the trio will be taken back east to Iowa and the care of a minister’s wife (Meryl Streep, in a cameo). No one will volunteer to make the journey so Cuddy says she will. This is man’s work – the work of the titular homesman. She comes across Briggs and engages him to accompany her. He’s no good and about to be hung, but the promise of $300 is enough inducement for him. The pairing is a classic odd couple.

Along the way, they repeatedly encounter hindrances: poor weather, an abductor and Native Americans. One hindrance is so unpredictable, it is impossible not to gasp when it comes.

Although bleak and unsentimental, The Homesman is shot through with humanity. And it's beautifully composed. Open spaces are captured with an austere magnificence. The music is fantastic too. After watching this powerful film, it’s a jolt to watch the extras and see Jones and Swank at Cannes in modern-day clothing – the world conjured by The Homeman is so persuasive that both actors seem indivisible from the parts they play.

Overleaf: watch the trailer for The Homesman

Although unsentimental, 'The Homesman' is shot through with humanity

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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