Skip to main content

The Homesman

The Homesman (2014) Poster

I watched recently a DVD of a movie starring Hilary Swank and Tommy Lee Jones, The Homesman.

This movie in one sense echoed one of my favorites, The African Queen, with Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart.

In both cases a high-minded religious woman has to travel, and a low-life drifter is coaxed into joining her in her travel.

In The African Queen, of course, the Hepburn character, a missionary in contested territory, [that is, African territory contested between two great Imperial Powers in 1914] has to travel because the outbreak of war, both in Europe and amongst the administrations of the contending nations' colonies in Africa, has made her situation impossible. The nearest safe place for her as a British subject is Kenya.

In The Homesman by contrast, Swank's character is traveling because there are three madwomen in her small isolated town in the middle of the Nebraska territory. These women have to be taken, in what looks essentially like a horse-drawn jail cell, towards a more civilized locale where they can be re-united with their respective families. The motives for the voyage are, then, quite different.

On the side of similarity, though: in both cases a burial plays a critical role in the plot. In The African Queen, the missionary's brother is murdered by German soldiers in an early scene, and the first task of the Hepburn/Bogart team up is to bury him properly. In The Homesman, the traveling pair encounters a cemetery in the midst of their travels that has been disturbed by grave robbers, and Swank's character won't proceed until order has been restored.

Fans of The African Queen will remember that the lead characters are ready to give up and accept their certain death at one point late in the movie, when they have become stuck in a marsh and have no idea how to get back to the proper channel, and thus on to the lake that has been their destination. They pray for the salvation of their souls and fall asleep. When they awake, though, they have become the beneficiaries of a sudden rain, which has restored their forward momentum.

I won't draw out the analogy in The Homesman, because I don't wish to provide a spoiler here, but I think it fair to say that there is a somewhat analogous moment, when the central characters' voyage seems to have come to a sudden tragic end, but that seeming proves deceptive.

All in all, it is a fascinating well-made movie, as was its precursor, and I leave you to it.


Popular posts from this blog

A Story About Coleridge

This is a quote from a memoir by Dorothy Wordsworth, reflecting on a trip she took with two famous poets, her brother, William Wordsworth, and their similarly gifted companion, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

We sat upon a bench, placed for the sake of one of these views, whence we looked down upon the waterfall, and over the open country ... A lady and gentleman, more expeditious tourists than ourselves, came to the spot; they left us at the seat, and we found them again at another station above the Falls. Coleridge, who is always good-natured enough to enter into conversation with anybody whom he meets in his way, began to talk with the gentleman, who observed that it was a majestic waterfall. Coleridge was delighted with the accuracy of the epithet, particularly as he had been settling in his own mind the precise meaning of the words grand, majestic, sublime, etc., and had discussed the subject with William at some length the day before. “Yes, sir,” says Coleridge, “it is a majestic wate…

Cancer Breakthrough

Hopeful news in recent days about an old and dear desideratum: a cure for cancer. Or at least for a cancer, and a nasty one at that.

The news comes about because investors in GlaxoSmithKline are greedy for profits, and has already inspired a bit of deregulation to boot. 

The FDA has paved the road for a speedy review of a new BCMA drug for multiple myeloma, essentially cancer of the bone marrow. This means that the US govt has removed some of the hurdles that would otherwise (by decision of the same govt) face a company trying to proceed with these trials expeditiously. 

This has been done because the Phase I clinical trial results have been very promising. The report I've seen indicates that details of these results will be shared with the world on Dec. 11 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology. 

The European Medicines Agency has also given priority treatment to the drug in question. 

GSK's website identifies the drug at issue as "GSK2857916," althou…

Hume's Cutlery

David Hume is renowned for two pieces of cutlery, the guillotine and the fork.

Hume's guillotine is the sharp cut he makes between "is" statements and "ought" statements, to make the point that the former never ground the latter.

His "fork" is the division between what later came to be called "analytic" and "synthetic" statements, with the ominous observation that any books containing statements that cannot be assigned to one or the other prong should be burnt.

Actually, I should acknowledge that there is some dispute as to how well or poorly the dichotomy Hume outlines really maps onto the analytic/synthetic dichotomy. Some writers maintain that Hume meant something quite different and has been hijacked. Personally, I've never seen the alleged difference however hard they've worked to point it out to me.

The guillotine makes for a more dramatic graphic than a mere fork, hence the bit of clip art above.

I'm curious whe…