Follow your intuition, you know how this story unfolds. It’s set in Mississippi during the second world war: two families, one black and one white, surrender a son to war and await their safe return. Upon arrival, everything and nothing has changed between the men, their families, and hometown.
That said, there are 7 key characters and at least 12 story-lines between the main and ancillary characters.
You meet Henry and Jamie in the establishing shot on a muddy and desolate farm, digging a grave for their Pappy. You learn that Henry is a strong-minded man and Jaime, browbeaten with a blackened eye. Next is Laura and her daughters, lamenting on their time on the farm during the walk to the grave. Finally, it’s Hap and his family leaving the farm on a horse drawn cart. The tension is thick. The rest of the movie is a flashback to everything that has transpired between the two families. (Can you guess what happens?)
The plot itself, though not original, is fairly well-executed. Even with the characters drawn to stereotypes, almost every character has a redeeming quality. There is a lot of foreshadowing and if you’re observant, you can pick up on when and how something (good or bad) might happen. There are a few troubling areas though:
- The “Vera” storyline doesn’t add to the plot. I’m comfortable telling you this because the movie wouldn’t have been any different with these characters and scenes removed.
- Some of the acting fails to deliver an emotional response. If a character falls down a hill and breaks both legs, I should be able to hear and see the pain s/he feels. That’s not what happened here, but you get my point. Showing high emotion in high emotional scenes is very important.
- The ending lacks clarity and explanation. (Sorry, guys). The main questions are what and how – what exactly happened to the character in question, and how did the family reach their destination? It felt like a very rushed ending. I spoke to three other people about the film and we were all split in our answers. Hint: this is not an Inception-esque movie, so there should only be one clear outcome. (Can you tell me what happened?)
Even so, the movie was enjoyable and I would recommend it to anyone not easily incensed by the prolific racism of 1940s America. Don’t watch it before bed like I did though, it’s a major bummer.