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A somewhat mentally handicapped 20-year-old man works as a laborer, but everyone abuse his naiveté. A nice 40-year-old American woman hires him one day and they become close. However, the town and his family see her as predatory.
Tom and Mae Garvey are a hard working farming couple living with their two children on the east Tennessee farm owned by Tom's family for generations. They and many of their neighbors have hit hard times of late. A downturn in the economy has led to dwindling land prices. But the biggest problem of late has been that their crop land has been prone to flooding as the property is adjacent to a river. Manipulating the powers that be including a local senator and the local bank, Joe Wade, who also grew up in the area and now runs the local milling company that sets the local grain prices, is working behind the scenes to buy up the properties along the river for a song as he wants to build a dam which would flood the Garvey's and others riverfront properties. The dam would generate electricity, but more importantly for Joe it would provide irrigation opportunities for farm properties away from the river, such as his own. Tom already intensely dislikes Joe as he and Mae used to go together. ... Written by
Tom (Mel Gibson) and Mae Garvey (Sissy Spacek) struggle to keep their farm afloat after a devastating flood. Joe Wade (Scott Glenn) has a scheme to build a dam to bring water to his land. To do it, he would need to buy out all the farmers including the Garveys. Tom needs a loan but Joe Wade has lined up the bank and political backers against them.
It is the little guy struggling against the big guy. It is also about Tom's single-mindedness. Tom is not necessarily a sympathetic guy. He is stubborn beyond reason. He has a mean streak in him. This makes the simplistic movie structure of small-guy-makes-good not so simplistic. Sissy Spacek is able to soften him image somewhat. There are a couple of great scenes in the mix. The auction scene is the most memorable and heart breaking. The faces in the crowd says it all. The other is the strike. The ending of which is another great scene for a different reason. This starts out yet another small farmer struggle movie. In fact, it's the last of three big such releases of that year. It turns into a man obsessed against the river.
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