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Tom and Mae Garvey (Mel Gibson, Sissy Spacek) are the owners of a small eastern Tennessee farm that has been in the Garvey family for generations. It is the early 1980s, when the staggering U.S. economy threatens the welfare of the American family farm. The Garveys' struggles are compounded by the fact that their property is in a flood plain, and by the enmity of Tom's rival Joe Wade (Scott Glenn), who is a wealthy and powerful foe. This is not lighthearted entertainment.
For me, the film's most powerful moments come when cash-strapped Tom has to leave the farm to find work elsewhere. He unknowingly becomes a scab in a factory where the regular labor force is on strike. At least there is a regular paycheck, but the contrast between the man-made hell of a iron foundry/steel mill and the natural beauty of the family farm is compelling, and you can see why the Garveys struggle to hold on to their agricultural way of life, however hard it is. The cinematography for this movie is way above average, a celebration of rural America.
Sissy Spacek delivers her usual fine performance. Mel Gibson is very good-- his Tennessee accent quite convincing. The two youngsters who play their children deserve special praise for their natural performances. This is a good, thoughtful movie-- not romantic, thrilling or exciting-- but one the family can watch together and think what sacrifices they would make to keep a heritage and a way of life preserved.
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