I am reminded of the joy that comes from seeing movies that move me, and no, that is not the Beaujolais Nouveau talking. (As I write this, I am celebrating the Winter Solstice with a glass. Happy Winter!)
Wild and The Homesman are both inspiring films that don’t pull any punches.
Friday afternoon, I caught Wild with a couple of friends. It’s no exaggeration to say that I love this film and not just for Reese Witherspoon’s impressive performance.
For the first time, director Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club, The Young Victoria) lives up to his promise for me.
I’ve not read Cheryl Strayed’s memoir upon which the film is based, but her work with Nick Hornby (who is usually on point in print and adaptations, including About a Boy and An Education) takes a very difficult story, built equally around a journey and flashbacks, and brings it to life perfectly.
Talking about the film over dinner, it seems my friends were more traumatized by Cheryl’s grueling trek than I was.
I kept thinking about the HGTV show Fixer Upper, which has become a minor obsession of mine after I stumbled onto it over Thanksgiving. Stick with me here.
The renovations that engage me the most of those where a house is stripped to the studs and rebuilt, and it seems to me that this is what Cheryl Strayed did with her life. After she spiraled out of control, she had to start over again and push herself to the limits in order to become the woman her mother always knew her beloved daughter could be.
What does Cheryl gain as she hikes the Pacific Coast Train? Strength, wisdom, purpose, and – ultimately – herself as she comes to terms with her mother’s life and her death. It’s a beautiful thing to watch unfold.
Like Wild, The Homesman deals with a journey over rugged terrain with women in distress. Three women have been driven mad by the hardships of life on the Nebraska frontier. They languish until a remarkable woman and the drifter she coerces into helping her set off on a dangerous journey to transport the farm women back to civilization for care.
Hillary Swank plays Mary Bee Cuddy, a settler who is smarter, harder working, more ethical, and stronger than the men farming nearby and the townspeople not far away. She is also a woman who carries an ineffable sadness deep down inside. When husbands falter or fail their wives, she steps forward to do the right thing and assist these women who seem beyond help.
Director Tommy Lee Jones plays George Briggs, a man like many who makes mistakes and selfish decisions and often cannot be trusted. Sometimes, he is downright mean. But, there are other times when he rises to the occasion.
There is not a false note in the film. The storytelling is strong, the performances are nuanced, and the film is beautiful to behold.
Life can be hard. Try to do the right thing. And, life goes on…