The Homesman – it’s not a Western?

The Homesman poster 1I’d written a whole thing about Westerns and how Tommy Lee Jones clearly doesn’t like having to explain himself while promoting The Homesman. I had a couple of links to a couple of interviews to demonstrate his reticence; then I realised I was getting away from it all. You take away what you take away from a film like this and Mr. Jones isn’t going to hold your hand and explain it all to you. As for the Western thing, anywhere’s West when you’re living in the East. We’re slap-bang in the middle of America, farming in the grasslands of Nebraska when we meet Hilary Swank‘s character and while a journey East across the great Missouri River into Iowa must be undertaken, it’s still west of New York state. It’s got guns, Native Americans, big hats and horses…you make your mind up!

The Homesman poster 2You won’t find “Homesman” in any dictionary, English or American. Mr. Jones’ second directorial cinematic feature (his first was The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada in 2005) takes its title from Glendon Swarthout’s novel of the same name. It’s the story of a woman taking three mentally ill wives home to Iowa – hence she is referred to as a “Homesman” by the town Reverend. There’s no equal opportunities in the 1850’s, so she won’t be called the Homeswoman.

The Homesman Jones and SwankThere’s a directness to the storytelling; The Homesman pulls no punches. I like that. We are put under no illusion as to where we are and what is happening. The onscreen relationship between Mr. Jones and Ms. Swank is sparky and that’s not entirely due to the excellent writing. For two actors to spend so much screen time together, an affinity with the subject matter and each other is required to make the material work. The Homesman is beautifully shot too. The starkness of the open plains of (literally) middle America is sumptuously captured – Mr. Jones and his cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto demonstrate, through the camera lens, an empathy for the world these characters inhabit. I liked The Homesman a lot. I’m reluctant to refer to it as a Western – Mr. Jones does not like “Genre” contrivances – but it certainly feels like one.

Thank you for reading 🙂

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