The Homesman review

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Though famed, primarily, for his work in front of the screen, Tommy Lee Jones has proven himself behind the camera too, as following on from his directorial endeavour The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada back in 2005, comes his long-awaited sophomore feature The Homesman, which sees the esteemed performer taking on the lead role, too.

The real star however, is Hilary Swank, who plays Mary Bee Cuddy – a strong-willed, independent woman, desperate for a husband and eager to make a difference; offering her services in transporting three clinically insane women across different States in a rickety old wagon, hoping to provide them with a better future elsewhere. To help her with the arduous task at hand, she employs low-life drifter George Briggs (Lee Jones) to assist her, persuading him with the lure of cash and the guilt of saving his life. So the pair, with their loyal horses and three mad passengers, head off into the night.

Like any great western, The Homesman revels in simplicity – with a straight-forward narrative that sees our protagonists take off on a journey with one sole ambition, which makes it similar to the likes of The Searchers, or Unforgiven in that regard. Such an approach does inevitably lead to the occasional bout of tedium however, in a slow-burning, pensive piece of cinema that requires patience and resilience from the viewer. It’s helped along by the more than accomplished acting performances, particularly from Swank, who has become a rather elusive figure in Hollywood these days. In this instance she’s back on similar form to turns that had earnt her two Academy Awards, playing a heavily nuanced role of a woman so uptight and yet so vulnerable; so strong-willed and yet so lonely.

With little in the way of humour, this sincere, sombre piece of cinema can at times be as challenging to watch as their mission is to accomplish. But it’s a film that certainly sticks with you, and though during the viewing you might end up clock-watching and anticipating the closing credits – it’s days afterwards that you realise you may just have witnessed something rather special.

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About Stefan Pape

Stefan Pape is a film critic and interviewer who spends most of his time in dark rooms, sipping on filter coffee and becoming perilously embroiled in the lives of others. He adores the work of Billy Wilder and Woody Allen, and won’t have a bad word said against Paul Giamatti.

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