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In Shenandoah, Virginia, widower farmer Charlie Anderson lives a peaceful life with his six sons - Jacob, James, Nathan, John, Henry and Boy, his daughter Jennie, and his daughter-in-law and James' wife Ann Anderson. Charlie does not let his sons join the army to fight in the Civil War that he does not consider their war. Jennie marries her beloved Lieutenant Sam, but they do not have a honeymoon since Sam has to return to the front. Charlie's youngest son Boy is mistakenly taken prisoner by soldiers from the North so Charlie rides with his sons to rescue Boy, while James and Ann stay on the farm. It is time of violence and war, and tragedy reaches the Anderson family. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Well-acted, beautifully realized story of a peace-loving family's struggle to survive the Civil War
A peaceful, hardworking farming family suffers the strains and unavoidable losses of the Civil War in `Shenandoah.' James Stewart is the head of the clan, who does not keep slaves and refuses to fight for men who do. Since the death of his wife, he has raised his large family to work hard and fight for what is right, and now the onset of the war forces them to come to terms with everything they believe in.
The film is largely set on Stewart's farm in the Shenandoah Valley. At the start of the film, the family tries to go about its business as if the war did not exist. Ignoring the war becomes increasingly difficult, however, with soldiers constantly marching through the property trying to recruit the sons and requisition the livestock. When the youngest son is taken prisoner Stewart decides the time has come to take action, so they set out to find the boy. Along the way, lives are lost, values are tested, and mindsets are changed with experience.
Stewart's performance as the proud patriarch is excellent. It is a grizzled, more mature Jimmy Stewart than one is used to, with a cigar stub constantly dangling from his mouth and a perpetual scowl on his face, but in essence it is the same proud, upright character that he has always specialized in. He is effective in conveying the fear and vulnerability of a man who is unsure of the right thing to do, looking out for his family and land in the midst of a war-torn nation. His conversations at his wife's gravestone stand among the most poignant work of his career.
`Shenandoah' takes its time in telling its story, interspersing simple, low-key scenes (in church, at the dinner table) with action sequences. Its characters are real people with real problems, and with whom the audience can readily identify. It is a mature, beautifully realized film, with scenic photography and sensitive performances.
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