A wonderful bit of Americana, beautifully shot on location in Montana
This film, written by Victoria Jenkins (who has gone on to write four novels since then), was also released on video under the title SEASON OF DREAMS (a release title not noted in the IMDb listing). It is set in the small town of Lavina, Montana, in 1954. It was a TV movie made for the American Playhouse series of PBS and has never been released on DVD, though it is possible to obtain old videos of it, such as I have. It is a beautiful and elegiac story of a young tomboy named Anna Mae, aged only 14, who struggles to keep the family farm going despite her useless and dissolute father (who is in hospital with a shattered arm) and a restless mother who is going to pieces, and finally abandons her to run off to California. The part of Anna Mae is played by Megan Follows, who despite being 18 at the time, looks young enough for the part. She started acting on television at the age of 9, so she was very skilled by this time. She does a superb job of carrying the film by her strong performance, which is a real feat for a teenager. This film was made on location and is so authentic you feel you can reach out and touch the hay bales as they are being stacked (hence the title of the story, STACKING). Frederic Forrest does a wonderful job also of playing Buster, a failed local farmhand who redeems himself by helping Anna Mae without pay to save what is left of her farm which has been in the family for four generations. Peter Coyote appears in a cameo role as a photographer passing through on his motorcycle. Christine Lahti plays the mother of the girl, oscillating between nice and self-centred, as she slowly disintegrates under the pressures of her nowhere life and then runs away to an even less certain future. There are some wonderful shots of the wild Montana scenery, and a superb scene of a cattle sale with a genuine local auctioneer reeling off his prices with his tongue twisting faster than the speed of light, just like my cousin Charlie Hainline used to do. That, I believe, is fast becoming a lost art, or maybe already is. The beat-up vehicles (one painted in that cherry red with a matt finish which was used in the fifties), the creaky old tractors, the local fiddler from Billings with his string band, the wind-swept and vacant streets and roads, the ill-kept shacks with flies and mosquitoes and sagging screen doors and the old 'ice box', the café with cherry pie so bad you can't swallow it, the bottles of coke and beer being swilled down all the time in the heat, all of that really brings it all back to anyone who can go back that far. This film is so evocative and real that it is the antithesis of Hollywood and reminds us of just how good Lindsay Law's American Playhouse series (commencing 1981) really was, and what a contribution it made to keeping quality alive in the USA. If only all of its productions, instead of only a few, were available on DVD, I am sure there would be plenty of people wanting to buy the entire set, such as myself for a start. The films in that series take on more cultural value as time goes by, and as a lasting testament to authenticity and quality produced without sloppy sentimentality or Tinsel Town affectation, they should be preserved and made available in their entirety as a lasting record of when things were done right.
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