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Simply put, this is a well done film full of characters you come to care about. Joanne Whalley is perfect in this and one of the best roles I have ever seen her in. She is quite believable as a N. Carolina mother. These are the types of roles she's most brilliant at. As the mysterious drifter, Tom, Sean Patrick Flanery, too, stands out in a role that could easily be over-played. The drifter's background is slowly leaked out through the course of the movie, keeping you interesting and wanting to know more about him and those that come to care for him. Alexa Vega was also brilliantly cast in a very mature role for a young actor. While the ending was not what I would have liked (just the romantic in me talking) and the film's plot theme has been done many times before in other films, it doesn't spoil the overall goodness of this movie.
I found this video at Blockbuster - and was I thrilled! It is a quiet movie but it sucks you into the lives of these people involved and makes you feel like your watching a real group -- not just a movie. I really recommend this film - and I usually go for action films not drama. This is a Drama well worth your time.
An extensive effort is made by all involved to present an accurate background of a small town in the U.S. and its close connection to martial affairs on varying fronts in 1945. A suite of scenes is given sincere attention by the director, Paul Kaufman, in his feature film debut. The text of Rodney Vaccaro's script, based upon his play, is remarkably well done in light of his hideous attempt at comedy with the misfire "Three to Tango". This film is nicely cast, and standout performances are given by Sean Patrick Flanery, Joanne Whalley, and a brilliant Alexa Vega. Insertion of specific details relating to the final year of the war is not overdone, and the fairly complex plot is permitted to develop as a mirror of the players' emotions. Noteworthy is the amassing of detail that is essential to a drama showcasing a wide range of character interaction. In sum, a vital and scarcely known work.
From the carefully crafted script to the touching performances by Sean Patrick Flanery, Joanne Whalley and Alexa Vega, the amount of care taken by the filmmakers is evident to even the casual viewer. I first saw this movie on Showtime, where it hooked me in while channel-surfing. I couldn't believe it wasn't a feature (I just recently rented it again after seeing it on the shelf in Blockbuster). Don't waste your money on the hype - rent this quiet, stirring film and be swept away.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Run the Wild Fields: an evocative drama
Tagline: War, patriotism, commitment, childhood, missing, nostalgia, fatherhood, love, belongingness, friendship, individualism vs democracy vs fascism, jealousy, family, drama
'Run the Wild Fields' is not a deeply moving movie, but it creates a subtle ripple in you that can have a long life. Though the film has war and violence in the background, the action is not blatantly shown; it is rather subtly invoked. The physical and mental tensions that lurk underneath are quite palpable. I think the movie evokes the mood and background of war more subtly than action thrillers such as 'Saving Private Ryan' or 'The Thin Red Line'.
While growing up like a 'wild flower' in North Carolina, Pug (her father has been missing for three years in the Pacifics in the second world war) finds a wounded man in her backyard. She informs her mother Ruby, who attends to the stranger. The young man turns out to be a mysterious drifter Tom, who is later revealed to be a war veteran. Ruby gives him shelter for the night in her house.
Later, under a different circumstance Tom and Ruby meets; she again gives him shelter. This time, he is to stay in their outhouse, cannot take wine or women and is to accompany the mother and daughter to church on Sunday. Time passes by, a natural relationship blooms between Tom and Ruby and Pug. Tom moves almost naturally into the roles of Ruby's husband and Pug's father (to which Ruby passively consents).
Pug's relationship with Tom starts with a mere curiosity that later develops into companionship. Finally she is ready to fix him into the role of her father which had been lying vacant for so long. He teaches her nursery rhymes and dancing, takes her to fishing and even mends her relationship with Sammie, her archrival in school, by asking him to dance with her in the Independence day party.
Jealous neighbours scoop out Tom's past and history. Still, the relationship of Tom with Ruby and Pug continues. (Tom still stays in the outhouse and presumably they do not have physical relations, barring a deep kissing scene.) By the time war ends, Tom had become an inextricable part of mother's and daughter's life. Then comes the conflict: Ruby's missing husband, Frank Miller is coming back.
The climax of the story is shown through Pug's view. She hides her father's letter which informs that he is coming back. Pug, who had sorely missed her father, now wants Tom to be her father. But dramatic turn of events take the letter into Tom's hands.
There are many encaging sequences which absorb you into the film. While Ruby sews up her torn dress, Pug expresses her wish to learn dancing. (She now wants to dance with boys.) She asks Tom whether he could teach her to dance, which he agrees to with a winking of his eye. The scene when Tom teaches Pug dancing in the outhouse is sweet and natural. She giggles when he offers her his hand. Then they go swirling by the way tossing something off from the shelf. Still, teaching and learning continues.
Especially touching is the last scene, when Pug comes searching for Tom to introduce him to her father. Her sense of loss when she finds Tom gone somehow reminded me of my own childhood (though for no obvious reason). I think most of us, during childhood develop a fetish attachment to some people other than your parents or close relatives (a relationship that simply blooms out of proximity) and may want them near, though that might be impossible. And the nostalgia and sense of loss that reality brings is overpowering.
The cinematography that captures the poetic North Carolina landscape makes the movie all the more watchable. The woods where Silas goes hunting, the fishing scenes featuring Tom and Pug, the rugged farm where Tom works are all simply evocative. The empty swing hanging from a tree-top goes well with the mood of the characters and the film. The most enduring one comes when Tom, Ruby and Pug looks onto the field after a full day's work.
The emotional conflicts and dilemmas the characters undergo are beautifully reflected by the actors. The controlled, but to-the-brim acting of Joannah Whalley and Sean Patrick Flanery is remarkable. The chemistry between the two is quiet, but forcefully evocative. Whalley has very expressive (She is such a classic beauty, no wonder the People magazine chose her one among the fifty most beautiful people in the world!!) eyes that reflect the underlying fears and tensions her character undergoes. Very controlled acting indeed. It feels the only part of her body that we see are her eyes. (Flanery's are also deep, soulful eyes that reflect his cynicism and desolation). The chirpy Alexa Vega lends a crispy tone to the film. One gets the feeling, had these three not been there, the film would have been different, not to mention, not so encaging.
Good editing work too. The film is crisp and taut. No shot is misplaced or juts out. Finally, a superb piece of direction. The director understands the meaning of economy and has made a prim movie. The way the film invokes the second world war in the background is superb. President Roosevelt's death, how the whole country is affected by it, (Tom's talk on "radiowaves" is a bit confusing, though.), families glued to the radio to hear the latest news about the President's death, the genuine sorrow which sunk America etc dovetails trim editing with supreme direction.
The secondary characters - the jealous, but concerned Silas, Miss Matty, the police inspector who arrests Tom, the elderly couple who loses their son George in the war - all are life-like and drawn in grey shades. They lend originality to the film.
A sober getaway from the usual Hollywood stuff. Something that touches your heart gently; but the pain lasts longer.
This film is well worth watching for the emotions that are allowed to develop between the main characters. The mysterious stranger has his own secrets, and it may possibly just have happened, (leaving room for artistic license.) I liked being caught into that particular time-frame of the '40's when morality still existed in the American culture, and people (generally) had depth of character. The film does not "assault" the viewer, like so many recent releases will assault the senses. Really well acted and directed, I thought.
Sean Patrick Flannery is reserved as a drifter who comes to a small town looking for work. Though the town believes he is a coward since he is not in the War, a young girl, who's mother has hired him to help run the farm now that her husband has disappeared in the War, finds the drifter fascinating and is torn as to whether she wants her father to return at all. The leads are fine and this is a quick watch without any heavy impact.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
this movie caught me off-guard while channel surfing 4 years ago. i
found it on the hallmark channel, originally on showtime, and i was
sucked into watching until the very end. i couldn't tear myself away
even if i'd tried.
such a sweet movie and tender performances all around by the main cast. it's a story about a woman (joanne whalley) whose husband is off to WW2 and MIA. the discovery of a wounded drifter (sean patrick flanery) on her property by her daughter (alexa vega), makes her confront her fears and the possible truth of her husbands demise. why we don't hear more from joanne whalley is beyond me. a fantastic actress whose technique is so engaging you are compelled to watch. and sean flanery? my goodness, "subtle" yet effective, comes to mind when thinking of his performance. the aching melancholy beneath the surface of his "tom", and joanne's "ruby" makes my heart ache the acting is so touching. comparably, the interaction between mother and daughter and between tom and ruby's daughter as well, "opal (pug)", is so sweet you almost forget that tom hasn't been part of this family from the beginning. there's a scene where ruby is caught making an unconscious parallel comparison between eleanor roosevelt dealing with FDR's death, and herself trying to deal with her husband frank's possible death. she gets a chill at the realization of the quasi-truth. at that exact moment, tom notices her shivering and offers her his jacket - which is really frank's jacket she gave him to wear out of kindness. the unspoken dialogue in that one scene moved me to tears. you can almost see her let go of frank's memory as she refuses the offer to wear the jacket. it is one of many scenes that moved me to tears in this wonderful, wonderful movie.
i cannot express how unexpectedly fantastic this movie is. to reveal the ending would rob the prospective viewer from simply one of the most wonderful viewing experiences they'll ever have. this movie grabs your head and your heart in a tight grip from the time you start watching, and it doesn't let go until the very end it is so engaging. such a pleasure was had watching this movie, i bought it not long ago.
go and rent it today. you will be so thoroughly happy that you let ruby, tom and pug into your heart for an hour and a half, that you may want them to stay forever and buy the movie like i did.
Somebody asked what the "radio waves" speech was all about. I believe Tom is trying, without reference to Christianity, to say that we are all immortal in the sense that radio waves are immortal. Even though FDR is dead, his words will continue to bounce, forever, like radio waves, from star to star in the universe. This struck me as a quite touching and genuine moment in the film. I was less enchanted with the biography provided for Tom, especially as it became known at the most opportune moment (the scene when Tom is being heroic). But the performances by the three leads were enough to keep me interested in this bittersweet film.
This film held my interest to the very end with fine performances by
Whalley, Sean Patrick Flanery, Alexa Vega, and Cotter Smith. It reminded
of two other excellent films. The movie is narrated by the young
Opal, but in retrospect using her now grown up voice, similar to Scout,
Gregory Peck's daughter in To Kill a Mockingbird, and Opal's character is
nearly as appealing. Also this film reminds me of Places in the Heart,
a "single woman" trying to manage a farm without her husband present and
necessarily bringing people together to save the farm. This film has
Flanery as Tom the drifter invited to help Joanne Whalley with the farm,
Danny Glover and John Malkovich helped Sally Field in Places in the
Having identified those similarities, the film stands well on its own and I appreciated the dramatic tension of several plot lines which did resolve in less predictable ways, and left me feeling better about the movie watching experience by avoiding predictable plot development. I won't "spoil" the movie by disclosing the specific plot issues in this review. The movie allowed me to appreciate the lead characters as I got to know them better in the events of the film. I would rate this one 8 out of 10 and recommend it with enthusiasm.
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