The Homesman

When three women living on the edge of the American frontier are driven mad by harsh pioneer life, the task of saving them falls to the pious, independent-minded Mary Bee Cuddy. Transporting the women by covered wagon to Iowa, she soon realizes just how daunting the journey will be, and employs a low-life drifter, George Briggs, to join her. The unlikely pair and the three women head east, where a waiting minister and his wife have offered to take the women in. But the group first must traverse the harsh Nebraska Territories marked by stark beauty, psychological peril and constant threat.


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  • ★★★★ review by Jake Cole on Letterboxd

    Tommy Lee Jones starred in a faithful Cormac McCarthy adaptation and directed his own McCarthy movie, but with THE HOMESMAN he does not simply perform the author's work but uses the same style to traverse paths that McCarthy never has. Specifically, the film affords a perspective to women, something largely absent in McCarthy's work, and if anything it finds even more bleakness from this vantage point.

    As the title might indicate, THE HOMESMAN is not, ultimately, about the Nebraska woman (Hilary Swank) who sets the film into motion by agreeing to ferry three mentally ill women to an Iowa asylum, but it is also not particularly about Jones' reluctant tag-along, either. Rather, the focus remains on the manner in which Jones throws typical Western iconography into disarray by trying to apply it to women and seeing how it falls apart.

    Swank's Cuddy came out west on the assumption that she could live the pioneer life, to forge the life of a capable individual whose hard work reaped rewards. Instead, she discovered to her dismay that she was still a woman, and that the sort of behavior that would peg her as a hero were she a man only makes her "plain" and unworthy of marriage, which in turn further reduces her status by defining her as a spinster instead of a capable, intelligent woman with conviction. The women Cuddy transports suffered breakdowns in relation to the pressures of having to perform their constricted social roles in the cruel, untamed wild of their surroundings, and the film's final act imbues Jones's Briggs with some of his companions' madness, bestowing upon this gruff, unreliable, violent man the unbearable weight of empathy for those whose everyday pain is beyond his ken.

  • ★★★★ review by bree1981 on Letterboxd

    This is a gritty and tragic western directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones. The story centers on Mary Bee Cuddy played by Hilary Swank, strong and independent but longing for a husband, a single woman going it alone in a man's world, After the rest of her small town turn their back's she's tasked with transporting three women, driven insane by the rigors of the wild west, across country so that they can be cared for properly. This is where Tommy Lee Jones's character comes in, a drunken claim jumper, Cuddy stumbles across him sitting on a horse with a noose around his neck and agrees to cut him loose as long as he agrees to accompany her on her treacherous mission.

    This is a poignant story and the performances from the two leads are both superb, they share a natural chemistry and although fate has thrown them together they don't necessarily get on and the films lighter moments are between the two of them sparring back and forth. The cinematography in the movie is also top notch with the westerns wide open plains looking spectacular.

  • ★★★★★ review by Matt J. on Letterboxd

    Equal parts gritty, poignant, and poetic. This beautifully-crafted western contains gorgeous landscapes and wonderful, restrained performances from all.

    I had no idea Tommy Lee Jones was a skilled director in addition to a great actor. Plus, the cinema needs more Ms. Swank.

  • ★★★★½ review by Joe on Letterboxd

    Westerns used to dominate pop culture to a degree that's probably tough to imagine nowadays, but now (in Hollywood at least) we generally see about one or two a year. So every one is kind of a throwback by default, but The Homesman isn't really anything like the kinds of westerns that used to come out all the time - it's tough and gritty, with none of the western romanticism or archetypes you used to see in stories about the west. There isn't even really much action to speak of, although this is possibly home to my favorite action scene of 2014, a knife fight between Tommy Lee Jones and Tim Blake Nelson (whoever wins gets to keep all six names). It also depends strikingly on one's affection for Jones, which for me is pretty much through the roof.

  • ★★★★½ review by M_Penalosa on Letterboxd

    Maybe it's Tommy Lee Jones, and not Linklater, who is Texas' greatest filmmaker.

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